And You Thought Late Fees Were Bad

Matthew O’Neil, a librarian at Palm Harbor Library in Palm Harbor, Florida, hates junk faxes. He’s channeled his disgust for one particular fax blaster into small claims court.

His reward?

Cessna 340

Read all about it here

Update: The author has taken down the post, but I’ve got it below.

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Over the course of the last few months I have received unsolicited facsimile transmissions from one particular fax blaster. The number for removal and the number to fax back the advertisements for health insurance, mortgages, hot leads, selling my business and so on is also in my area code. The telephone number is not serviced by the local exchange carrier (Verizon) but a competing local exchange carrier (CLEC)

After the first fax on August 7th I called the ‘removal’ number on the fax but it was busy. I tried about six times but it was always busy. I used nanpa.com to find out who serviced the number and complained to them (the faxer’s phone company). The faxes continued. I filed 1 small claims suit against the sender and subpoenaed the records of the CLEC (competing local exchange carrier- the faxer’s phone company) they sent me the records within 3 hours of receiving the subpoena. It seems that other had complained about the illegal faxing as well.

When I found out who was really sending the faxes I decided I should use my librarian super powers to find out more about them. I found out that they are incorporated in Florida (using sunbiz.org and lexis-nexus) I found out the corporation holds assets in corporate name. The corporation has only one officer and for some reason he put both an automobile and an aircraft in corporate name (thanks to lexis-nexus). I don’t have any idea why he didn’t put them in his own name so creditors could not attach them.

So since I knew there were assets to attach I filed one additional small claims action for each illegal fax for a total of ten. The law limits the damages to $500 for each fax sent. However if there is an egregious violation they allow treble damages. So I filed 9 additional small claims actions against the same party- each fax must be a separate action.

The legal requirements were a bit of a pain in the arse, but nothing a librarian couldn’t handle. I served the resident agent of the corporation as required. We had a court date scheduled. I went to court and full well expected these geniuses to show up as they called me and asked me to dismiss the suit. I said for $1000 to the Leukemia Society (this is called an offer in compromise). They never called back. Well they never showed up in Court either. In the pre-trial conference I met with the hearing officer and asked for treble damages and costs as I the violations were egregious, I have to change my telephone number, and I had made an offer in compromise to mitigate damages. Well the hearing officer looked at my information and immediately transferred it to the judge. (In Small Claims they try to mediate things rather than punish people). A few days later after the notice of hearing was served upon myself and the registered agent a conference was held with the judge …. Guess who was there! Yep just me and the nice judge.

So the judge and I chatted for ten minutes or so in case they were stuck in traffic, then he tried the removal number on the fax and it was amazingly busy. So the hearing began and I presented all of my evidence and since they were not there they presented none of theirs (a default judgment would have garnered me only minimal damages so I asked to proceed in absentia), The judge asked me a few questions about my fax machine, what kind of toner (I use a roll which is quite expensive as opposed to the new laser faxes) and if I changed my fax number solely because of this.

Then I made a motion to merge all the cases into one hearing (as 10 copies of everything had gone out with the same date and time on them) the judge thought this was just spiffy, as it would save the Court time. I moved for treble damages and noted that their failure to show up after being properly served was contempt for the process and for the Court itself. I figured it would fail and I’d simply get default judgments X 10/ Well it worked. I asked for no stay of the execution beyond statutory requirements and was given that as well.

I figured as the nasty faxers would contact me in the interim, as there is a waiting period before judgments can be enforced. Well they never did. I guess they thought I was joking around.

So Monday I took my paperwork and a check for $800 to the sheriff and asked that they execute the judgment against the company. I asked that they seize a Cessna 340, a Lexus, and cash assets of the defendant. So the sheriff stamped and stapled and filed and collated the paperwork. Today I found out that they have seized the aircraft the corporation owns and will sell it at public auction next month.

I will get my money! The defendant has ignored all of the notices given to him and the time for appeals has passed. If no one bids higher than the judgment at the public auction the aircraft is mine. I was awarded $1500 for each fax, plus filing fees for each case of $155, plus fees for copies, printing, certified mail and the like. The total is $16837.32. I think I’ll come out OK since the aircraft is valued at more than a quarter of a million dollars and it is chained to the ground until after the sheriff’s sale. Oh, and I get back the $800 I paid the sheriff too.

Moral of this story:
1) Don’t screw with the librarian
2) Libraries- take action on your unsolicited faxes- they are illegal.
3) Reference tools are your friends!

Oh and it is all going to the Leukeima Society less my costs. In fact if they were nice and reading this I would settle for a ckeck for $10K to the Leukemia Society and my costs reimbursed ($10*$155, $800 plus misc postage and copying less than $200)

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