Byron Allen hit a legal barrier in his $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against Comcast. The Supreme Court ruled on the side of Comcast, leaving Allen with the burden of proving that the cable giant’s refusal to carry his seven TV networks was racially motivated.
“Few legal principles are better established than the rule requiring a plaintiff to establish causation,” Justice Neil Grouch wrote in the unanimous court decision reached on Monday (March 23). “In the law of torts, this usually means a plaintiff must first plead and then prove that its injury would not have occurred ‘but for’ the defendant’s unlawful conduct.”
Allen, who sued under the 1866 Civil Rights Act, called the Supreme Court ruling a “very bad day” for America. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has rendered a ruling that is harmful to the civil rights of millions of Americans,” the media mogul said in a statement according to Deadline. “This is a very bad day for our country. We will continue our fight by going to Congress and the presidential candidates to revise the statute to overcome this decision by the United States Supreme Court, which significantly diminishes our civil rights.”
Comcast cited “lack of demand” in their refusal to carry Allen’s networks, which include JusticeCentral.TV, Pets.TV and Comedy.TV. However, the Entertainment Studios founder and CEO accuses Comcast of turning him down because the media company is black owned. “Seeking billions in damages, the company alleged that Comcast systematically disfavored 100% African American-owned media companies,” the court ruling notes.
The document goes on to state ESN never disputed that Comcast “offered legitimate business reasons for refusing to carry its channels.” Allen asserts that Comcast attempted to hide their “true discriminatory intentions and win favor with the Federal Communications Commission.”
The Court decided that Allen “must plead and prove that race was the but-for-cause of its injury — in other words that Comcast would have acted differently if Entertainment Studios were not African-American owned. But if race ended accounts for Comcast’s conduct, Comcast should not escape liability for injuries inflicted during the contract-formation process.”
The case has been returned to the lower 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Comcast said in a statement that it was “pleased” with the Supreme Court decision.