On their home court at the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers are known for giving their fans “showtime” in the form of exciting basketball.
One fan, however, wants to give back to the team in the form of a class action lawsuit. Why is he suing the Lakers?
During a game, the team offered fans the chance to have their custom text message displayed on the “Jumbotron.”
Because of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, a law originally designed to stop telemarketers from systematically calling huge batches of numbers, this fan and others are able to sue the Lakers and the Clippers for getting any text sent back to them, even though they initiated the first text to participate in the offer.
“The problems that have arisen since it was passed is that technology has changed so significantly that companies that are making calls that are not random or sequential telemarketing are now getting pulled into lawsuits at an increasing rate,” said Becca Wahlquist, a partner in the law firm of Snell & Willmer, and an expert in TCPA litigation.
No one likes receiving random sales calls, but this over-the-top litigation threatens all American consumers from receiving valuable texts from companies, such as pharmacies, alerting customers of prescription recalls, or airlines needing to notify passengers of a flight schedule change.
“These were companies responding to text messages sent to them, and responded back with a text message,” explains Wahlquist. “When the TCPA was created in 1991 there were no text messages, there weren’t smart phones, there weren’t these kinds of technologies, and so companies who are using these sorts of technologies are finding themselves subject to lawsuits for a statute they may not have really known could apply to them.”
So what happens when predatory lawyers find a loophole in a law with good intentions?
Teams like the Lakers can be sued for potentially tens of millions of dollars — simply for offering a fan a chance to be in “showtime.”
The cost of defending lawsuits like these is ultimately passed on to the consumer, and for that we cry foul.