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CHESTER W. STITELER v. BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY PENNSYLVANIA AND PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION (11/04/77)

decided: November 4, 1977.

CHESTER W. STITELER, PETITIONER
v.
THE BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY OF PENNSYLVANIA AND THE PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in case of Chester W. Stiteler v. The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, Complaint Docket No. 21306.

COUNSEL

Mark B. Aronson, with him Behrend and Aronson, for petitioner.

Donald F. Clarke, with him Sheldon Seligsohn and W. Preston Granbery, for respondent, The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania.

Barnett Satinsky, Chief Counsel, with him Shirley Rae Don, Assistant Counsel, and Paul E. Russell, Assistant Counsel, for respondent, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.

Author: Bowman

[ 32 Pa. Commw. Page 320]

Before us is a petition for review in the nature of an appeal from an order of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) dismissing Chester W. Stiteler's (Stiteler) complaint against The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania (Bell). The PUC order was entered on September 20, 1976.

The history of a dispute between Stiteler and Bell leading to the PUC order reveals the following. Stiteler alleges that on July 23, 1974, Bell, without any right-of-way or easement, trespassed upon his land to lay a telephone cable. In the process of placing the cable, Bell allegedly caused substantial damage to his property. Stiteler presently has a claim pending against Bell for recovery of these damages and contends that Bell has steadfastly refused to negotiate in good faith a settlement of this claim.

In November of 1974 Stiteler refused to pay his telephone bill and continued to refuse to pay that bill and all subsequent bills submitted by Bell for telephone service. Bell gave Stiteler repeated notice that the service would be terminated if the delinquent bills

[ 32 Pa. Commw. Page 321]

    were not paid. Finally, on April 8, 1975, Bell terminated Stiteler's telephone service. At the time of termination, Stiteler's unpaid bill for the telephone service rendered by Bell was $113.30.

Stiteler alleges, as justification for nonpayment of this bill, that Bell trespassed on his property causing damages far in excess of the $113.30 that he owes Bell. He makes no claim that his telephone service was inadequate or that the bills rendered were inaccurate. In an effort to have his services restored, Stiteler filed a complaint before the PUC requesting the PUC to order Bell to return service to his residence. At the hearing before the PUC examiner Stiteler offered to establish an escrow account for payment of renewed telephone service and all outstanding monies owed Bell, pending the outcome of Stiteler's lawsuit against Bell. Bell refused this offer contending that its acceptance would result in an unlawful preferential treatment and a denial to Bell of monies to which it is legally entitled.

The PUC dismissed Stiteler's complaint stating that Bell could legally terminate service for nonpayment under its filed and effective tariff. This appeal followed. The tariff, Pa. ...


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