Gann Law Books of Newark has agreed pay $3 million in cash and services, to settle a class-action lawsuit. Lawyers in New Jersey are required to take periodic continuing legal education (CLE) courses. Besides selling law books, Gann also provides CLE courses. The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the New Jersey Anti-Fax Statute restrict the sending of mass fax solicitations. Gann stood accused of sending 17,0000 improper faxes to promote its CLE seminars. The faxes were sent between July 26, 2007 and July 26, 2011.
The faxes did contain “opt-out” notices. The notices stated that, “to avoid receiving notices such as this one in the future, send an e-mail to optout@. Please include your name and fax number.” However, the lawsuit claimed that the notices didn’t include a domestic phone and fax number that recipients could use to opt-out, as required by law.
The parties eventually reached a settlement. Under its terms, class members can obtain between $175 to $875 for each fax received, but only if a copy of the fax can be produced. If no copy was retained, class members can only get $125, if they provide an affidavit stating that they received an offending fax. Each class member is also entitled to receive two online CLE seminars for free.
In total , Gann will pay $1.1 million to the fax recipients, and $1 million to the plaintiffs attorneys. Gann will also provide $1.9 million worth of free CLE courses. During settlement negotiations, Any funds not claimed from the $1.1 million settlement fund must be paid to the owners of the fax numbers to which the improper faxes were sent. Gann apparently threatened to file for bankruptcy if it were required to pay any more.
There are several lessons here. First, if you feel that you have been the victim of an illegal commercial practice, it is very important that you keep all evidence that supports your claim. Second, if you receive improper junk faxes, you should contact an attorney to see if you qualify for compensation. Third, if you own a business, you should not conduct a mass fax campaign without vetting it beforehand with an attorney, unless you want to get sued.