Monrovia,CA: Food Truck Lawsuit Costs City $215,000

By Nathan McIntire | Monrovia Patch

A settlement agreement in a lawsuit brought against Monrovia by a food truck association requires the city to pay the organization $75,000 in attorneys fees, making the total legal cost of the ordinance to the city about $215,000.

The Socal Mobile Food Vendors Association sued Monrovia after it adopted an ordinance in 2010 that barred food trucks from parking in Old Town and restricted their operation elsewhere in the city. The city reached a confidential settlement with the group last month that requires the city to repeal its ban on food trucks and recommend new regulations for mobile vending.

In an email to Patch, Monrovia City Manager Laurie Lile said the city decided to settle the suit because it was unsure if it would prevail in court. A drawn out court fight could have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars more in legal costs in addition to the $140,000 it had already spent, she wrote.

“Regrettably, this is an expensive settlement for the city,” Lile wrote. “However, the City Council made a business decision to avoid the financial risk of taking the matter to trial. With no published legal authority on the issues raised in the case, there was no way to evaluate how the judge would evaluate the city’s ordinance. Some pre-trial rulings indicated that the court was in agreement with the Association on certain issues.”

One curious clause in the agreement bars the city and food truck vendors from sending out written information about the settlement to the news media. The clause was included at the request of the city, according to SoCalMFVA attorney Kevin Behrendt.

“The parties will not disparage one another in any context or circumstance,” the agreement reads. “The parties will not issue any written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing the terms of this Agreement.”

The city is required by law to make the settlement agreement public under the California Public Records Act. Patch obtained a copy of the settlement agreement through a public records request.

City Attorney Craig Steele did not return two messages requesting comment on the settlement agreement.

Lile said in her email that the city will amend its ordinance into a “set of regulations consistent with other cities and acceptable to the food truck industry.”