JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Aug. 12 – LAWFUEL – The Law N…

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Aug. 12 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — A ruling on Thursday, July 28, gave Florida cable TV subscriber’s rights a boost when the Florida First District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court decision that denied the cable
giant AT&T Broadband (now Comcast) the attempt to unilaterally change
subscriber agreements by requiring customers to submit to binding arbitration.
This ruling clears the way for the certification process in the class action
suit filed against AT&T Broadband, purchased by Comcast in 2001. The class
action suit was filed by attorney Norwood “Woody” Wilner of the Jacksonville
law firm Spohrer, Wilner, Maxwell & Matthews on behalf of then AT&T cable TV
customers throughout Florida and Georgia for breach of contract, unjust
enrichment and fraud related to customer service and billing problems.

Prior to the filing of this class action suit, AT&T had adopted the
practice of sending out a fine print notice as an insert in customer bills
that attempted to essentially eliminate subscriber’s rights against the cable
company. In addition to eliminating the right to bring a claim in court, the
provision shortened the statue of limitations, prohibited class actions,
imposed a confidentiality agreement, and prohibited punitive damages. This was
a take-it-or-leave-it policy that gave consumers no option except to cancel
service.

After the class action suit was filed, AT&T petitioned the Fourth Circuit
Court of Duval County, asking Judge L. Haldane Taylor to stop the suit based
on the position that all customers were subject to binding arbitration and
therefore had no right to participate in a class action suit. On September 30,
2004, Judge Taylor wrote in his ruling that this policy by AT&T was
“procedurally and substantively unconscionable … it was presented on a take-
it-or-leave-it basis and provisions unilaterally benefited
AT&T.”

“Protection of consumer rights has been upheld by the Florida courts.
These rulings are a bell weather for subscriber’s rights against cable TV
monopolies, and we can now enter into the class action certification process.
The arrogance of these companies reminds me of big tobacco,” said attorney
“Woody” Wilner, whose landmark tobacco case Carter v. Brown & Williamson
resulted in the loss of $14 billion to tobacco stocks in one single day.

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