Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - The Buffalo Bills have settled a lawsuit over their text-messaging service.
Jerry Wojcik, a Florida man, sued the team because they sent out more text alerts than the promised three to five a week. Wojcik said in his suit he sometimes received six or even seven text messages in a week.
The Bills reached a settlement in the lawsuit in which the team will provide class members up to $2.5 Million worth of debit cards good at the team’s. The team must also pay over $500,000 in attorneys’ fees.
“The Buffalo Bills have reached a settlement in this matter which we believe is in the best interest of our organization and our fans," the team said in a statement. "The purpose of the Bills voluntary, opt-in text messaging program was to provide our fans with information they requested about the team. The organization maintains that our text messaging program was in compliance with the law.”
"Part of what happened here is there is a federal law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)," said University at Buffalo Law Professor Mark Bartholomew. "That has provisions saying you can get statutory damages, which means that you don't have to prove harm. Most of the time in the law you have to prove there's harm caused, but statutory damages say for each violation, we can asses a certain amount of money."
It's for that reason Bartholomew believes the Bills settled the case. If they hadn't they may have been penalized separately for each message sent over their self-imposed limit.
Gonzalo Mon is a Partner at the Kelley-Drye Law Firm who specializes in advertising and promotions law. Mon says that lawsuits like this have happened before, notably fans have filed suit against the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins and the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers.
Mon says that simply changing a word could have prevented the Bills from having to pay damages. "A few years ago we saw the writing on the wall on how plaintiffs were exploiting minor things to file lawsuits, so I think wording like 'approximately five messages per week' (opposed to 'five messages per week') would have helped."