As folks know, manufactured lawsuits continue to plague TCPAWorld.
Gross as it is to say, people literally go onto websites and fill in fake information with their phone number to get phone calls–just so they can sue the caller under the TCPA!
And it happens all the time.
Because of the huge damages available under the TCPA, many individuals continue to supply their name falsely on websites to attract phone calls and then sue for resulting calls. Some of these unsavory litigants have grown so bold as to sue over and over again demanding an ever-increasing settlement bounty.
Abusive lawsuits. Terrible.
Well in Anthony, No. 1:21-CV-02509, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58998 (N.D. Ill. March 30, 2022) a defendant bank countersued a Plaintiff for fraud alleging that the Plaintiff had manufactured his own lawsuit.
In the Bank’s version of events–as alleged in their counterclaim–the Plaintiff visited http://www.lowermyowninterestrate.com, purporting to provide apparent consent to be called under the name “Needle Dee” with the intent to manufacture this lawsuit.
The lead was sold to the Bank who made calls on the lead believing it was valid.
Plaintiff turned around and sued claiming that he had not actually visited the website and never went by the name “Needle Dee.”
The Bank sued Plaintiff right back for fraud–looking to recover all of the fees it incurred defending the suit as damages.
The Plaintiff moved to dismiss arguing that the allegations of fraud had not been established but the Court disagreed. Concluding that supplying a fake name to create a lawsuit was absolutely potentially fraudulent the Court allowed the case to proceed past the pleadings stage:
It sounds bizarre, but as far as Rule 9(b) goes, the specific facts are pleaded. The Bank gives the date of the fraudulent statement (January 10, 2021), the specific content of the false statements (fake name and fake consent to receive a phone call), what the Bank did in response (make the phone calls via its vendor), and what the Bank employee talked about with Anthony. The specifics are all there.
Interestingly, the Court also found that the name “Needle Dee” was not so obviously fake as to destroy the reasonableness of the bank’s reliance on the fake lead.
Anthony is an extremely important case and one that gives a great roadmap to companies that are facing manufactured lawsuits. Countersuing fake consent-suppliers for fraud is ABSOLUTELY what folks should be doing–where the facts support the allegations– so we can clean up these abusive lawsuits. While it is true that the lead gen industry also needs to clean up its own act, litigants lying and cheating their way into TCPA lawsuits commit a fraud upon the court and waste critical judicial resources that are much needed elsewhere. Plus they’re just plain stealing. Really gross stuff and I love to see the caller here pushing back.
Obviously I don’t know whether Anthony really did submit a fake lead or not–the merits of the case are yet to be determined–but this does happen all the time. And when it does defendants need to be willing to do the hard work of pushing back and not just roll over and write an easy check…