Wireless Providers Barred From Recovering Damages From Municipalities
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that wireless service providers who are wrongly denied use permits by municipalities may not recover compensatory damages from those municipalities. In James A. Kay v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes, decided on September 21, 2007, the Ninth Circuit concluded that when Congress amended the Telecommunications Act in 1996 by imposing narrow limitations on zoning authority over wireless facilities, including antennas, Congress did not intend for wireless providers to recover damages if local authorities violated those limits and denied a permit. Congress instead intended for courts to order municipalities to issue a permit, but nothing more. Two years ago, in the case City of Rancho Palos Verdes v. Abrams, the U.S. Supreme Court held that wireless providers may not recover attorney’s fees or civil rights damages against municipalities who violate the Telecommunication Act. Taken together, the Kay and Abrams decisions mean that local officials may exercise their discretion in reviewing wireless provider applications without having to worry about the prospect of damages and attorney’s fees if they make a mistake. Richards, Watson & Gershon represented the City of Rancho Palos Verdes in both cases.
James A. Kay, Jr., et al. v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes, et al., 2007 DAR 14783 (9th Cir., September 21, 2007).
FOR ADVICE FROM RICHARDS WATSON & GERSHON CONCERNING TELECOMMUNICATIONS ISSUES, PLEASE CONTACT T. PETER PIERCE AT PPIERCE@RWGLAW.COM OR ANY OF THE LAWYERS IN THE FIRM’S TELECOMMUNICATIONS PRACTICE GROUP.
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