Overturned Jury Verdict a Victory for Cox

A federal judge has reversed a jury verdict of $6.31 million against Cox Communications after finding no evidence that the cable company foreclosed competition in the market for set-top boxes.

An Oklahoma City jury had examined whether the company forced its premium cable-TV customers to rent its set-top boxes in violation of antitrust laws.

“While the Court agrees with plaintiff that Cox required a customer to rent a set-top box in order to obtain premium cable, there is simply no evidence from which a reasonable jury could determine that that arrangement led to a foreclosure of commerce,” U.S. District Judge Robin J. Cauthron wrote in a 5-page order entering judgment in favor of Cox.

Responding to the court’s ruling, Cox spokesman Todd Smith said, “Cox’s primary goal is to provide its customers with high-value video services and this victory ensures that Cox will be free to continue to provide those services in the future. We are pleased that the Court has recognized that Cox’s conduct did not violate the antitrust laws.”

Todd M. Schneider, a lawyer in San Francisco representing the plaintiffs, expressed disappointment in the ruling and said an appeal is planned.

“We believe she [judge] got the law and the facts wrong,” Schneider said in a brief phone interview with Channel Partners. “We’ll be appealing her ruling to the 10th Circuit and we believe the 10th Circuit will reverse her ruling and reinstate the verdict.”

According to the class-action complaint, Cox has reaped a windfall by forcing customers who subscribe to its premium cable services to rent its set-top boxes. About two-thirds of the company’s video customers in Oklahoma City subscribe to premium cable, the complaint said.

But Cauthron found no evidence that Cox stymied competition for set-top boxes.

“The Court finds that Plaintiff failed to offer evidence from which a jury could determine that any other manufacturer wished to sell set-top boxes at retail or that Cox had acted in a manner to prevent any other manufacturer from selling set-top boxes at retail,” the judge wrote.

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