CALIFORNIA–A cable company paid one of its customers $65 in early May after the disgruntled viewer successfully sued the company for failing to air his favorite television show.
In mid-April the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco refused to hear the appeal by Chambers Cable. Chambers asked the federal court to take jurisdiction over its appeal after a Marin County Small Claims Court awarded Phillip Schlenker of Novato, Calif., a $65 judgment.
Schlenker, an avid football fan, sued Chambers Cable, claiming the cable company violated an implied contract to provide all networks to its customers. Because of a contract dispute with ABC affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco, Chambers did not air ABC programming, including Schlenker’s favorite show, “Monday Night Football,” during 1993 and 1994.
Following the initial judgment, Chambers unsuccessfully appealed to Marin Superior Court in early January before attempting to take the case to federal court.
After Chambers refused to pay for over four months, Schlenker enlisted the Sheriff’s Department in early May to collect the money for him. The next day the cable company paid the $65 judgment plus $20 for sheriff’s fees and interest.
Schlenker’s lawyer, Max Hopkins of Novato, filed a separate class-action suit against Chambers in early January on behalf of its 17,400 customers in the area. The class-action suit alleges Chambers violated state consumer protection law and its implied contract with customers when it removed two television networks from its cable services without reducing rates. The suit seeks refunds of up to $120 for each customer and is scheduled to be heard in Marin Superior Court on June 15.
A Federal Communications Commission spokesperson told the Marin Independent Journal that Schlenker was the first customer in the nation to successfully sue a cable company over programming. (Schlenker v. Chambers Cable; Media Counsel: Richard Harmon, Lafayette)
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