FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 31, 2003
Comcast Wins Big Victory in Apartment Case
Comcast Cable Communications has won the right to provide cable television to the Drexelbrook Apartments in Delaware County, one of the largest garden apartment complexes in the region, with 93 buildings and 1,223 units.
The case arose under the Tenant’s Right to Cable Television Act, which permits a cable television provider to install its cable service for tenants of a multiple dwelling premises who request it. Tenants in the Drexelbrook complex requested Comcast service.
Although Drexelbrook originally opposed Comcast’s request to provide service, Drexelbrook eventually agreed to allow Comcast to install cable, but demanded compensation for “loss of value” resulting from the installation of Comcast’s cable system, which they claimed to be between $1,878,000 to $4,930,000.
Arguing for Comcast, Klehr Harrison attorneys Michael Coran and Grant Phelan claimed that the cable installation would actually enhance the value of the apartments and that the only loss was the loss of income which was formerly generated by the in-house cable system. The appointed arbitrator Edward N. Cahn, former Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, agreed with the arguments presented by Comcast.
Judge Cahn agreed that there will probably be a loss of income to Drexelbrook because of the superiority of the Comcast system, but stated that the law was intended to prevent tenants from being “captive” to house cable systems. While Comcast must pay for physical damage to the premises and loss of rental space, it need not pay for loss of income. Cahn stated that the law does not provide for a loss of income from an ancillary activity not compensable under traditional eminent domain principles. He therefore awarded Drexelbrook $1 in nominal damages for the claimed loss in value.
According to Michael Coran, “We are very pleased with this result. The decision helps develop the body of law under the Tenants’ Rights to Cable Television Act.”