Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp.
458 U.S. 419 (1982)

  • Loretto owned an apartment building. In order to provide cable tv service to the residents, Manhattan CATV installed a cable on the outside of the building.
    • There was a New York law (§828) that required property owners to allow installation and maintenance of cable wires on their property.
  • Loretto, upset at the aesthetic damage an ugly wire caused her property, sued to have §828 declared unconstitutional.
    • Loretto argued that the permanent physical occupation of her property constituted a taking and was an unconstitutional violation of the Takings Clause.
    • Manhattan CATV argued that §828 was not a taking and was just a regulation on the permissible use of rental property by tenants.
      • They didn’t have satellite tv back then, so without a cable, a tenant would be limited in what channels they could receive.
  • The Trial Court found the law to be constitutional. Loretto appealed.
  • The New York Supreme Court affirmed. Loretto appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found §828 to be unconstitutional.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the cable represented a ‘permanent physical occupation’ of Loretto’s property (albeit a very minor one).
    • The Court found that a ‘permanent physical occupation’ constitutes a regulatory taking without regard to whether the action achieves an important public benefit or has only minimal economic impact on the owner.
      • A regulatory taking refers to a situation in which a government regulates a property to such a degree that the regulation effectively amounts to an exercise of the government’s eminent domain power without actually divesting the property’s owner of title to the property.
    • The Court found that the Takings Clause of the Constitution prevents the government from taking someone’s property without compensation.
  • The case was remanded to determine how much money Loretto was due for her loss. The Court gave Loretto $1, finding that her property value would actually increase as a result of access to cable tv.