Scopes Monkey? Roe v. Wade? O.J.? Those trials pale in significance next to Rosenrosen v. Satellite-Co-Glom-Tek.
The judge took a deep breath and began to read the case summary.
“This matter is before the court on Defendant’s Motion up the jimmy caw-caw, to which Plaintiff has responded and Defendant has replied, filed in propria persona for declaratory relief, injunctive relief, evinrude relief, and statutory damages under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, starting at R.C. 4719 point 01 and what follows, 45 point 351 and what follows, 19 point 853 subset 11 and what follows, cheese and rice got down in some big ditch …”
She continued in this way and the expressions I read around the room told me that we struggled to follow along. What I understood: The Gucci-besuited, retired surgeon, we’ll call him Dr. Rosenrosen, represented by his diminutive attorney, we’ll call him Cabbage Patch Sigmund Freud, was suing one of the satellite TV networks, Satellite-Co-Glom-Tek, represented by a rosy-cheeked sales manager and two cyclopean corporate attorneys, for some sort of telemarketing transgression.
The matter at hand eventually became clear and when the judge finished, there was dead silence in the room. I suspect we were waiting for her to continue, to get to the important part of the case, to the real reason we were there.
You see, the transgression was this: Dr. Rosenrosen’s son, a new customer of Satellite-Co-Glom-Tek, had fallen behind in his payments. The company made frequent calls, trying to get him to pay up. The delinquent customer didn’t want to get these calls, so he changed the phone number listed for “account-related purposes” to yet another family member’s phone number.
This new phone number was on the company’s “do-not-call” list. Satellite-Co-Glom-Tek’s voice response system called the new number many times, some twenty times or more, still trying to get paid. Dr. Rosenrosen and family grew annoyed, and in their annoyance, turned litigious.
That was all there was to this story. No murder, no espionage, no scandalous affair. Maybe a bit of duplicity, but not enough to write home, or I suppose a blog post, about. But anyway.
The judge invited the attorneys to ask us questions to help them select just the right jury for their case. Prospective jurors were tripping over each other to get out of it, voir dire or no. Let me tell you of the many ways I either hate or love telemarketing—that was the name of the game and the desperate captives played like champions.
When Cabbage Patch Sigmund Freud asked a question like, “Are you a customer of Satellite-Co-Glom-Tek?” a panicky prospective juror might have answered, “No, but they sound like a very fair and friendly company, a corporation that can do no wrong in my eyes.”
One satellite attorney may have asked, “Do you have an opinion of what the penalty should be for a company that disobeys the do-not-call list?” and laughed nervously when someone shot their hand in the air and offered, “Death by beheading for the board of directors.”
Eventually, this subtle protest wasn’t enough. A young woman raised her hand. “This doesn’t have anything to do with the question you just asked,” she said, “but this case seems frivolous.”
“I don’t understand,” she continued, “why someone should get money just because they received some phone calls.”
The attorneys tried to continue their line of questioning, but several more prospective jurors spoke up with the same indignation. My pepperminted, balding row-partner said, “This seems like a waste of time for everyone involved.” The sentiment caught on. Mutiny wafted through the room.
Finally, the judge called the attorneys to the bench for jury selection. For ten minutes they whispered, glancing over their shoulders at the gallery, nodding their heads, shaking their heads. Meanwhile, 35 citizens of Ohio prayed to be spared this colossal fool’s errand.
In the end, they selected half of the people in the jury box and a handful of the people in the first positions in the gallery. I was not selected. My luck came down to getting a higher random number earlier in the Jury Assembly Room. Perhaps Fate felt I had learned my lesson, that to tempt her with overconfidence was ill-advised. I was grateful for my freedom.
Just before leaving the courthouse, I handed my badge back to Jury Clerk Natalie. I asked if it was okay to discuss the case with friends since we weren’t selected.
“Oh sure, but you’re probably not going to hear too much about this case in the papers or on TV,” she said.
“Nope,” I said, and a yawn got me.
I learned later that the trial took two days and the jury deliberated for little more than 60 minutes. They ended up siding with Dr. Rosenrosen. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, violating a do-not-call request carries a maximum penalty of $500 dollars for each call made in error, more if the call was made on purpose. The judge awarded him $12,000 in statutory damages.
So, here’s how to make a cool couple-grand in five easy steps:
- Use a company’s service
- Put your phone number on the company’s do-not-call list
- Stop paying your bill
- Let them call you a bunch of times trying to get you to live up to your end of the deal
- Take them to court for annoying you
I’m curious what the jury deliberations were like, if the jurors thought the complaint seemed at all deceitful. But I consider getting released a bullet dodged. I’m willing to bet those jurors weren’t clinking cold ones or throwing a Frisbee when it was over.