Last month, a handful of rooftop owners finally pulled the trigger on the long-threatened lawsuit regarding the renovations and outfield signage at Wrigley Field. The suit, filed in federal court, offered an interesting, creative mix of claims, but I’m not sure how compelling they actually are when you drill down into the legal merits.
As part of that suit, the rooftops have now filed for a temporary restraining order against the implementation of outfield signage that would block their views (Tribune, Crain’s), a step that isn’t at all surprising, though it’s getting a lot of attention in the last 12 hours. Essentially, a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) is a command from the court to do or not do something immediately, in advance of a full hearing on a preliminary injunction (which is, itself, a command to do or not do something in advance of a final determination of a lawsuit). A TRO hearing comes quite quickly – in this case, the rooftops are shooting for February 18 – and, even if a TRO is granted, it typically lasts only a very short time, until a preliminary injunction hearing can be scheduled (and the moving party has to offer security sufficient to cover the costs to the other side if it turns out they were wrong in getting the TRO in the first place).
In other words, even if the TRO were granted here, that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be significant harm to the Cubs, either financially, or in the form of a construction delay. It really depends on how long it takes to schedule the preliminary injunction hearing, but it’s usually fairly swift.
As for whether the rooftops can actually secure a TRO, much less a preliminary injunction, in this case, it seems like an uphill climb. The very short version is that, to get an injunction before trial – either a TRO or a preliminary injunction – a party has to show that they will suffer irreparable harm without it (and, to get the preliminary injunction, they’ve also got to show a likelihood of success on the merits at trial, and show that granting the injunction won’t unnecessarily harm other public or private interests). Here, even if it’s true that the erection of outfield signage will harm the rooftops, I’m not so sure it’s irreparable, given that the rooftops could theoretically be made whole via monetary damages and/or removal of the signage down the road if they won their case.
You never say anything for certain in these situations, especially when (1) you’re not a lawyer (I haven’t been a practicing attorney in almost four years) and (2) you’re not intimately involved in the case.
We’ll see what happens in the coming days. Technically the judge could issue the TRO before the hearing next week, but I expect that the Cubs have lawyers feverishly working on a response to get to the court ASAP (some poor folks’ weekend was ruined by this filing). If it’s granted, don’t panic about the renovation being shut down, at least not until there’s actually a preliminary injunction hearing, and not until we ascertain exactly what aspects of the renovation would be shut down and for how long.
All in all, I doubt this step was unexpected, and I think the likelihood that it has a dramatically negative impact on the renovation process is small. Remember, too, that all of this takes place against a backdrop of negotiations. Legal maneuvers are a part of that process.