Case: Belton v. Comcast Cable Holdings, LLC, No. A112591 (Cal. Ct. App. 6/8/07)

The One Sentence Summary: California court of appeal rejected blind customer’s claim that Comcast’s policy requiring purchase of television cable services in order to obtain cable FM or music services violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, because the plaintiff was not denied access to a place of public accommodation.

What They Were Fighting About: Plaintiff was a legally blind resident of Sonoma County, California and a subscriber to Comcast cable services. Defendant Comcast offered FM or music services to Sonoma County residents only as part of a basic cable package that included television cable service. Plaintiff did not wish to purchase the television cable service, since his blindness prevented him from using it. The complaint alleged various causes of action including violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civil Code section 51 et. seq.), based on Comcast’s practice of packaging music service together with television programming and refusing to provide music service by itself. A violation of the right of any individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) also constitutes a violation of the Unruh Act. The trial court granted Comcast’s motion for summary judgment on all causes of action.

Court Holdings:

  • The court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s granting of judgment in favor of Comcast on the Unruh Act claim and all other causes of action.
  • Although Civil Code section 51(f) provides that “[a] violation of the right of any individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 . . . shall also constitute a violation of [the Unruh Act],” the court held that plaintiff could not establish any violation of the ADA.
  • To state a claim under the ADA, plaintiff must show he has been denied access to “a place of public accommodation.” The court held that, as a matter of law, cable services are not a place of public accommodation. Because the facts could not establish a violation of plaintiff’s rights under the ADA, the Unruh Act claim failed as a matter of law.