A $7 billion lawsuit accusing 80 Houston businesses of sending unwanted faxes was dismissed in state district court by Judge Harvey Brown. The order was signed March 7 but made public March 22.
In a summary judgement, Judge Brown dismissed all remaining defendants in the junk fax suit ruling that no state or federal laws had been broken.
Some of the most recognized restaurants and car dealers in Houston were sued; many facing legal claims for tens of millions of dollars.
Jon Opelt, the Houston director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, reacted to the suit in disbelief.
This was far more than a lawsuit spurred by annoyance. In a worst case scenario this lawsuit could have bankrupted scores of local businesses and put thousands of Houstonians out of work.
Chair King, a Houston furniture dealer, and eleven other named plaintiffs, annoyed by receiving allegedly unsolicited fax advertisements, filed suit in state court in 1995 claiming that the sending of unsolicited fax sales pitches violates the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Without comment Judge Brown ruled otherwise, apparently suggesting that the long-standing federal law does not apply to intrastate fax advertisements sent solely within Texas.
The plaintiffs also contended their right to privacy and full use of their fax machines had been violated.
The plaintiffs were seeking damages ranging from a low of $500 against Houston car dealer Don McGill for a single fax to a high of $1.4 billion against car dealer John Eagle Honda in Clearlake, who reportedly sent nearly a million faxes to Texas businesses within a three-year period.
A similar suit, filed by Chair King, was dismissed in federal court in April of 1995. A federal appeals court later ruled that state court had jurisdictional authority. Meanwhile, many of the original defendants chose to settle the case rather than litigate the matter.
Fourteen advertising firms that specialize in the sending of mass or blast faxes, as they are commonly known, were also sued. However, no money damages were sought. The defendants claim they were assured that each fax recipient had signed a consent form agreeing to receive discounts and incentives to local, upscale business, restaurant and entertainment establishments.
A state law governing the sending of unwanted faxes went into effect September 1 of last year. However, many of the broadcast faxes in dispute in the Chair King case were allegedly sent in 1994 and 1995, before Texas had adopted civil penalties for sending unwanted fax advertisements.
for a listing of the defendants in the case and the money damages demanded.
for a listing of additionally named plaintiffs in the suit.