It wasn't a robocall, but a federal judge left a message anyway for companies Tuesday when he awarded nearly $230,000 to a Texas woman, finding that a cable company crossed the line when it harassed her with 153 robocalls even after she complained about the wrong numbers.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan ordered Time Warner Cable Inc. to make the $229,500 payment to Araceli King of Irving, Texas, citing the New York-based company's "particularly egregious" behavior as it violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
King sued last year, saying she had repeatedly asked the company to stop making the calls.
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Susan Leepson, a Time Warner spokeswoman, said the company is reviewing its options and determining how to proceed.
Hellerstein said he tripled the $1,500 penalty for each call because Time Warner's actions were "particularly egregious" since it continued making the calls even after King complained in a seven-minute phone conversation in October 2013 with a company representative that the calls to her phone were apparently meant for a customer she did not know. The judge noted that 74 of the calls were made after Time Warner received a copy of King's lawsuit in March 2014.
The company's "recurring theme" in its legal arguments was that it was an unwitting victim of an unpredictable federal law that was not intended to turn an innocuous call to a wrong number into large damages, the judge said.
"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 judge wrote.
King's lawyer, Sergei Lemberg, said his client is delighted. He said the decision sends a message to consumers to "stop taking it on the chin" when robocalls don't stop and a message to companies that it's necessary to pay attention to human beings, even when technology is used to make repeated calls.
"Millions of U.S. consumers get robocalls. Only a few of them take it a step forward and get a lawyer," the Stamford, Connecticut, attorney said.