Claim: access to cable Playboy Channel caused pain, anguish

by Walter Olson on December 16, 2008

Marc Randazza (Dec. 12; source link he cites is NSFW):

A Rhode Island family filed a lawsuit in Kent Superior Court claiming that Verizon Communications caused “great pain, anxiety, nervousness and mental anguish,” by providing access to the Playboy Channel. Plaintiffs Robert Bourne, Denise Roy and daughters Elice Roy and Danielle Bourne are seeking compensation for “current and future medical bills.”

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12.16.08 at 1:04 pm

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1 Ed 12.16.08 at 11:12 am

I’m guessing repetitive stress injuries to Plaitiff R.B.’s right hand.

2 John Burgess 12.16.08 at 11:46 am

Unless R.B. is left-handed, of course.

Or perhaps ambidexterity will lead to doubling of damages?

3 Bumper 12.16.08 at 12:03 pm

If only someone could invent some sort of mechanism to allow the viewer to select another channel or even to just turn the whole mechanism OFF! I bet they could make a lot of money from such a contraption. Probably not as much as there is to be made from filing frivolous lawsuits, but maybe enough to supplement one’s Social Security benefits.

4 Todd Rogers 12.16.08 at 3:44 pm

These people (the adults) need to spend a little time with The Heff and this matter will straighten itself out in no time.

5 saundra 12.16.08 at 4:22 pm

I’d like to point out that the use of pornography has many victims, mostly women and children, but also men.

6 Todd Rogers 12.16.08 at 4:49 pm

I think it’s appropriate to suggest that the MIS-use of pornography has many victims, most of whom are women and children…

7 Poncho 12.16.08 at 6:19 pm

Both the FiOS and the TV can be set to avoid the channel(s) in question…that is of course, if one wants to go THAT far. This stuff does not pop up on one’s screen like spam on an e-mail.

8 John Burgess 12.16.08 at 6:23 pm

And Todd wins with a TKO.

9 gitarcarver 12.16.08 at 9:38 pm

This stuff does not pop up on one’s screen like spam on an e-mail.

According to the plaintiffs, it did.

They tried for four months to have the pay per view channel that Verizon admitted was wrongly showing up on their screens blocked. Verizon, for whatever reason, did not stop the unwanted and un-requested service from coming into their home.

While I agree that there are no “medical damages” in this case, the family tried to get Verizon to stop delivering a product that they did not want, and in other circumstance, would be considered as stealing.

It was spam by tv, and if Verizon had simply listened and followed through with their policy and the customer’s request to stop delivering the product they did not want or order, I doubt we would be here.

I bet Verizon is listening to them now.

We are all chuckling at the basis and the request for damages, but in the end, Verizon screwed up. Maybe this lawsuit was the only way to get Verizon’s attention.

The case should be dropped with Verizon offering an apology, paying the fees for the lawsuit and as a show of good will, give the people a credit or free cable for some length of time.

10 KB 12.16.08 at 11:15 pm

Again, turn if off if you’re offended. Cancel your subscription. Tell Verizon to take their cable box back. Use a competitor. Read a book if you’re so offended. Anyone who says they let this go on for 6 mths and then decide to sue when they had the power to stop it themselves at any point should be required to pay Verizon’s entire legal bill as punishment for this kind of nonsense.

Common sense, the uncommon virtue.

11 Frank 12.17.08 at 10:01 am

i don’t know enough about how cable works to understand this.

“Verizon admitted was wrongly showing up on their screens”

Like instead of “Barney” or “American idol”?

Just this one household or TV receiver?

Any info will be appreciated.

12 Todd Rogers 12.17.08 at 10:46 am

First, it’s not about the money…it’s about protecting the kids. Next, in order to make any sense out of this, one must first dismiss the uncontrollable desire to leverage current neuro-reasoning pathways. Finally, inadvertent viewing of Barney or American Idol can be just as damning to one’s psyche as viewing a little T&A.

13 wfjag 12.17.08 at 11:22 am

I always wondered what happened to the old Married With Children viewers. Instead of talking about Biggens, they now watch them — and their eyes are melting!

14 David Wisniewski 12.17.08 at 12:51 pm

Gitarcarver – Why did the family keep watching the Playboy Channel if it disturbed them so much? Why don’t you post under your real name?

15 PatW 12.17.08 at 1:43 pm

Gitarcarver-
They tried for four months to have the pay per view channel that Verizon admitted was wrongly showing up on their screens blocked.

This statement appears to prove that you have no clue how television works, which is amazing, unless you live in zimbabwe. Nothing on TV “shows up on your screen”. You must actively choose what to watch. Do you not know that?

16 gitarcarver 12.17.08 at 1:44 pm

Frank,
i don’t know enough about how cable works to understand this.
The channel in question is a pay channel – just like HBO, Cinemax, etc. Normally, the patron has to request it. This is not a standard channel.

David,
Why did the family keep watching the Playboy Channel if it disturbed them so much?
Who said they were watching it? It was being sent into their home against their wishes. We can sit here and say they should have blocked it at the box, but why should they? Verizon is making the error here and yet people are blaming the family for not wanting this channel being broadcast into their home. I wouldn’t want the risk of kids or some baby sitter guessing the password to unblock the channel at the box. The family didn’t want it coming into their home and had requested Verizon disable it.

As to why, who know? Who cares? The fact of the matter is that if they had been getting this channel and not notified Verizon, they could and would be accused of cable theft. It is wrong for Verizon to hold an account holder accountable for “stealing” the channel, and then turn around and not prevent the channel from being broadcast into their home after being notified multiple times. Also, I can see the family not wanting this channel on their cable records.

Also, the suit alleges that “Verizon is breaking Rhode Island’s obscenity statutes §§ 11-31-1 and 11-31-10, which outlaw promotion of obscene material and the distribution of “naked” content to minor.”

This is Verizon’s screw up. They had a chance to make things right the first time the family called. If something like this were not resolved in 4 months, I would be upset with Verizon as well. They promised a service as part of their contract with the family multiple times and failed to provide it.

17 gitarcarver 12.17.08 at 1:54 pm

PatW,
You must actively choose what to watch. Do you not know that?

You must also actively choose which channels are distributed to your house (whether as part of a package or as in this case, a specific pay channel that must be requested by the account holder.) The family was receiving a channel they did not want and had not requested against their will and against every standard cable and satellite contract I have ever seen. Verizon apparently agreed several times to stop sending the pay channel their way and yet never did.

The family did everything right within the service agreement. You can’t turn this around and then blame them.

18 PatW 12.17.08 at 2:38 pm

All that you said I agree is true. However, my point is that simply recieving a porn channel causes zero harm- it’s the watching of that channel that would cause hypothetical harm, albeit non-monetary. To watch that channel, they had to take action- they had to tune the box to that channel.

19 gitarcarver 12.17.08 at 3:32 pm

Pat,
I agree they would have had to turn the box to that channel. If you read my original post, I am against any damages for medical issues. However, once again, the family lived up to the letter and the spirit of the service agreement with Verizon. Whether their objections to the channel were moral or ethical, Verizon had a duty to stop the channel from being broadcast into the home. If you have ever talked to a cable service rep, you know how frustrating it can be. This family tried for 4 months to get Verizon to stop sending the channel into their home. Their objection may be on moral grounds that the channel is pornographic. It may be on the grounds that they were receiving a channel they did not pay for and felt they could be accused of stealing it. It could be that they didn’t want their records to show that they had ever received the channel. Whatever the reason, they didn’t want the channel. I wonder how much time they spent with Verizon trying to resolve this. That time has a value. There is a stress associated with dealing with companies that demand you live up to your end of the service agreement, but do not live up to their end of it.

This never should have gotten to the point where the family felt the only way to get Verizon to stop broadcasting the channel into their home was to sue. That it did get this far is totally the fault of Verizon.

20 Mark Biggar 12.18.08 at 11:55 am

Actually there is confusion about how Cable TV works. Verizon will never stop broadcasting the channel into their home as they send every channel everywhere. What they would do is to disable the decryption of that channel in the cable box.

21 Dirk D 12.18.08 at 1:02 pm

“Verizon will never stop broadcasting the channel into their home as they send every channel everywhere.”

I smell a 23(b)(3) in the works.

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