Illinois is shaping up as the leader in a surprisingly lucrative area of class-action litigation – claims against those sending unwanted faxes – with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, reports Crain’s Chicago Business. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Patrick McGann alone has since 2002 presided over more than 100 lawsuits, all seeking class action status, filed against senders of junk faxes. Most recently, Cleveland-based Charter One Bank in Judge McGann’s courtroom agreed to pay $1.8 million for sending unsolicited faxes to about 70,000 phone numbers.
The lawsuits became big business three years ago when a judge in Georgia ordered Hooters of Augusta Inc. to pay nearly $12 million for sending junk faxes through a local telemarketing company. An appeals court later reduced the amount to $9 million, but plaintiffs’ lawyers smelled opportunity, particularly in Illinois.
Illinois “has more (junk-fax) class-action activity I am aware of than in all other 49 states,” says Robert Biggerstaff, whose www.tcpalaw.com site chronicles the fallout from the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. The law allows courts to award damages of up to $500 per violation; $1,500 if the violation is intentional, such as a blast of faxes to strangers. Next July the law will become more stringent, requiring fax senders to get written permission before pushing the button. More litigation seems likely.