The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 was well-meaning legislation, attempting to protect consumers from unwanted telephone solicitation. But it appears that some lawyers are abusing the act to shake down businesses for settlements. This is similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has a noble purpose but has been a bonanza for some lawyers. (Theodore Pinnock is a San Diego lawyer who got disbarred for abusing disabilities act lawsuits.)
On August 9, Austin Maxwell of Manhattan Beach filed suit in federal court against Cohn Restaurant Group and one of its 24 restaurants.
Maxwell complains that on June 27, he phoned a Cohn restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter, the Melting Pot, to make a reservation. He was asked his cell phone number, he says. He received a text message that his table was ready. But he had never consented to receiving a text message from that restaurant, and the message was not for emergency purposes. The restaurant used an automatic telephone dialing system — another violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Maxwell charges.
Receiving the brief text message cost him money, complains Maxwell, and was an invasion of his privacy. Maxwell's law firm, Martin & Bontrager of Los Angeles, has filed several such suits, including against big banks and corporations. It boasts its lawyers are "tenacious consumer rights advocates." It claims it recently got a $150,000 settlement from a major national bank.
Maxwell is filing a putative class-action suit. He says he is filing on behalf of others who have suffered such alleged indignities.
David Cohn, head of Cohn Restaurant Group, says he would rather not comment.