Looks like it’s time to roll the credits on the Bengies Drive-In Theatre’s light-pollution lawsuit against Royal Farms.
The Court of Appeals last week denied the Middle River theater’s writ for petition of certiorari, meaning it will let stand a Court of Special Appeals decision from July affirming the Bengies is not entitled to $838,000 in damages awarded by a Baltimore County jury.
The Bengies, which opened in 1956 and is Maryland’s last drive-in movie theater, filed suit against Royal Farms in 2010, two years after one of its stores opened nearby along Eastern Boulevard.
County zoning officials granted a special exception for a convenience store along Eastern Boulevard that required lighting not to “inappropriately spill” onto the Bengies, but owner D. Edward Vogel alleged he had to close early in the fall and wait until foliage appears on his trees in the spring because of the light pollution.
A Baltimore County jury awarded the Bengies damages following a June 2012 trial, money Vogel planned to use to erect a 25-foot-tall, 850-foot-long fence to block the light from Royal Farms. But Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. threw out the jury verdict, agreeing with Royal Farms that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find a private nuisance.
“If the business located on the Bengies property was a 7-Eleven or a Walmart or a car dealership, there would not be even a colorable claim for nuisance based on lighting spillage,” Cahill wrote.
Ed Stronski, marketing manager for Royal Farms, said in a statement Monday that the company is pleased the case has ended.
“This decision by the court finally proves that Royal Farms has done nothing wrong, despite Mr. Vogel’s repeated assertions to the contrary, and our attempts to work with Mr. Vogel over the years,” Stronski said.