A federal jury has awarded $20.5 million against Dish Network for calls made by a third party in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act class action.
Although he was included on the federal Do Not Call Registry, Thomas Krakauer claimed that he received multiple phone calls from authorized Dish dealer Satellite Systems Network. Krakauer argued that Dish—which has a history of TCPA violations—was responsible for the illegal telemarketing of its agents.
“Dish took the view that compliance was the dealers’ responsibility, and fell back on self-serving contractual provisions to attempt to shield itself from liability for the illegal telemarketing conducted on its behalf,” Krakauer alleged in his North Carolina federal court complaint.
Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, Dish sought to dismiss the suit, asserting that Krakauer failed to allege concrete harm as a result of the calls. The court disagreed, denied the motion, and set a trial for January 2017.
During the five-day trial, Dish told jurors it should not be liable for the calls made by Satellite Systems. But the jury answered in the affirmative to the question “Was SSN acting as Dish’s agent when it made the telephone calls at issue from May 11, 2010 through August 1, 2011?”
Out of a range between $0 and $500, the ten-person jury awarded class members $400 for each of the roughly 51,000 phone calls, for a total of $20.4 million.
In a statement, Dish indicated it may appeal. “Dish thanks the jurors for their service, but respectfully disagrees with today’s verdict and is evaluating its legal options,” a spokesperson said. “Regardless, Dish has long taken its compliance with telemarketing laws seriously, has and will continue to maintain rigorous telemarketing compliance policies and procedures, and has topped multiple independent customer service surveys along the way.”
To read the verdict sheet in Krakauer v. Dish Network, click here.
Why it matters: Many TCPA defendants hoped that the Spokeo decision would have a positive impact in extinguishing DNC violation claims, offering an avenue to limit or dispose of cases based on the threshold requirement of concrete harm to bring suit in federal court. Those hopes did not play out in the case against Dish Network and the company is on the hook for more than $20 million. Just as important is the long-standing lesson for companies that they may not avoid liability for the bad acts of others acting on their behalf.