Issues With the Cable Company and Damages on Property

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“A cable company installed underground fiberoptic cable in my neighborhood for their infrastructure. They damaged my water line, causing damage to inside plumbing of house. They then came out of easement and installed cable on other side of my property, where there is no easement. They did not get a permit and used an unlicensed contractor. City cited them for work without a permit, but cited me, as well, because I am owner of property, even though this was not cable for my individual service. I had to hire a lawyer to represent me at the appeal for the citation. My question: Can I make the cable pay my attorneys fees since it’s their fault they did not get a permit? Can I remove and/or cut the cable that is trespassing on my property? Am I entitled to payment from the cable company for using my property for financial gain (charging neighbors for cable service while illegally using my property)? I live in Florida.”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Well, first of all, did you win the appeal? If you didn’t, then your chances of getting the cable company to pay for your lawyer are slim. To be honest, they’re not great even if you won: the “American Rule” is that people normally pay for their own attorneys, win or lose. The exception is if you have a contract that has an attorney fee clause, or if there is a particular statute which allows it. I’m assuming you don’t have a contract with the cable company regarding this matter, and your attorney would be in a better position to determine whether there is an applicable statute in Florida.

As for the trespass, as a general rule you are entitled to either damages or injunctive relief for a trespass, so you are probably in a pretty good position if you want to sue the cable company. Some states allow for “self-help” in dealing with trespasses, but there is always a balancing test in those cases, so I wouldn’t be too quick to cut their cable as your first line of defense.

I would first try negotiating with the cable company to see if they will pay you a reasonable amount for a new easement where there new cable is. If that doesn’t work, then a lawsuit might be in order.

Of course, there may be local statutes that I am not aware of, which give regulated utilities more leeway than ordinary people. If that is the case, that would complicate matters. Thus, I strongly suggest that you consult with a local attorney before even contacting the cable company.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.