Update (May 5, 2017): Reading Sr. U.S. District Court Judge Richard H. Kyle, Sr.’s recent order on the issue of improper service of process in conjunction with the defendants’ legal brief in support of their motion to dismiss fills us with foreboding for the prospects of plaintiff’s audacious class action complaint based on his receipt of a prank telephone call.
Maybe we’re just cocky after our most recent successful Minnesota Litigator prediction but we’ll predict that this putative class action is no-go from the get-go.
Original post (March 1, 2017) (under headline: Being Sued for Prank Phone Calls): It seems to be a rite of passage for many of us to horse around with prank telephone calls. Such shenanigans go back to the dawn of the technology as evidenced by that oldest of chestnuts: “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” (“Yes, we do.” “Well, for God’s sake, let him out!!!”)
Taken too far, though, we all recognize that so-called “prank phone” calls can be vicious harassment. They can and sometimes do result in civil liability and the imposition of significant damages. (In the linked case, the South Dakota Supreme Court let stand a verdict for a plaintiff for “vulgar and obscene” calls.)
The class action complaint of Troy Scheffler v. Prankdial, LLC, et al., takes the issue to a new level. Pending in U.S. District Court (D. Minn.) before Sr. Judge Richard H. Kyle, Sr., a company whose business model is facilitating prank phone may face class-wide liability for pranks that might range from the innocuous, to tasteless, and even, some believe, to downright vicious?
We can all go to PrankDial on the internet and choose from an overwhelming array of “robo-calls,” perhaps to delight a friend, to tease a sort-of friend, or annoy a non-friend. While we might be sympathetic to Mr. Scheffler, who appears to have been particularly vulnerable, we think it is safe to predict that any liability here will likely be on an individual basis rather than a class-wide basis, but time will tell. Plaintiff’s counsel, Peter Nickitas, has claims under the TCPA (Telephone Consumers Protection Act) and maybe he will find a route to a class-wide recovery.