Here is the text of the Wall Street Journal story:
Woman Robocalled by Time Warner Wins $230,000 Judgment
By Jacob Gershman
July 8, 2015
Araceli King, an insurance claims specialist from Irving, Texas, isn’t a man named Luiz.
The distinction seemed pretty clear to her but apparently not to Time Warner Cable bill collectors, who were under the mistaken impression that she was another person and wouldn’t stop calling her about a late payment.
Even after she got on the phone with a Time Warner representative and explained to them that they were robocalling the wrong person, the company kept calling: another 150 times over a 10-month period, still leaving messages addressed to “Luiz.”
But things are now looking up for Ms. King, who sued Time Warner over the calls. A federal judge in Manhattan this week awarded her $230,000 in damages, saying he hoped the judgment would encourage companies to be more careful about who they’re robo-calling.
Ms. King sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a 24-year-old law that requires telemarketers to maintain company-specific do-not-call lists and imposes restrictions on robocalls to mobile phones.
The law not only creates a private right of action for aggrieved consumers but allows them to recover treble statutory damages. With damages capped at $500 per violation, plaintiffs can collect as much as $1,500 per unsolicited call.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan counted as a violation each of the 153 calls she received after she had the conversation with the Time Warner representative. He then multiplied 153 and 1,500 to arrive at the $229,500 figure.
A Time Warner spokeswoman told Law Blog that the company: “We are reviewing the ruling and our options so we can determine how we are going to proceed.”
Mr. Hellerstein, in his opinion, had tough words for Time Warner:
If a business wishes to contract around that rule with its customers, it may, but the risk of error falls on the caller, so it should take care to ensure that it is calling the right people with information they actually want to receive… Whether the agent’s call were answered by Ms. King or her voicemail, the agent would quickly realize the mistake and fix the company’s records so that the machine would not contact her anymore. The responsible company will reduce its exposure dramatically by taking proactive steps to mitigate damages, while its competitor, who unthinkingly robo-dials the same person hundreds of time over many months without pausing to wonder why it cannot reach him, cannot complain about much higher liability.
The cable company didn’t dispute the number of automated calls placed to Ms. King, according to the opinion. But it disputed what should count as a violation. In more than 90 of the calls, there was no recorded message left on her voicemail. The company said the TCPA shouldn’t apply in those cases, the opinion said.
The company thought she was Luiz because he was a fellow Time Warner customer who had opened an account using a cell number later assigned to her, the opinion said.
“It’s a really great day for consumers,” Jenny Diane DeFrancisco, an attorney representing Ms. King, told Law Blog. “It’s a great day for people who are harassed by automated calls when the calls aren’t for them.”
Ms. DeFrancisco said that on top of the $229,500, they’re also entitled to reimbursement of litigation costs.
Law Blog also called Ms. King for comment, using the cell number published in the opinion, but there was no answer.