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Holtzman v. Turza

August 3, 2010

IRA HOLTZMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE REPRESENTATIVE OF A CLASS OF SIMILARLY SITUATED PERSONS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GREGORY P. TURZA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Ira Holtzman C.P.A. & Associates Limited ("Holtzman"), represents a certified class of individuals in an action against Gregory P. Turza ("Turza"), in which class plaintiffs claim that defendant violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), 47 U.S.C. § 227, by sending them one or more unsolicited advertisements by fax. The plaintiff class as defined in the court's order of October 14, 2009, and clarified on November 5, 2009, Holtzman v. Turza, 2009 WL 3334909 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 14, 2009), is composed of: All persons who: (1) during the period September 2006 through March 2008; (2) received a "Daily Plan-It" fax identifying "Gregory P. Turza" and his telephone number (847-647-0200) or e-mail address (greg@myestateplan.net); and (3) had not previously consented to receiving such advertisements.

The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court draws "all reasonable inferences from undisputed facts in favor of the nonmoving party and [views] the disputed evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008). The following facts are taken from the complaint and from the parties' statements of facts and accompanying exhibits as to which there is no material dispute.

Defendant is an attorney who operates a law practice in Skokie, Illinois. In August 2006, he hired Top of Mind Solutions, LLC ("Top of Mind") to create and distribute by fax and email one-page documents titled the "Daily Plan-It" to a list of persons supplied by defendant. Defendant's target list included a combination of contact information he purchased from the Illinois CPA Society and numbers he obtained from business contacts and students.

Top of Mind issued 41 versions of the Daily Plan-It on defendant's behalf, every two weeks, from August 2006 to March 2008. All 41 versions include a masthead with the words "The 'Daily Plan-It'" in italicized, bolded, and underlined text. "Gregory P. Turza, JD" appears just below the masthead along with the date, volume and issue number of the document. Beneath this title, the page is divided into two columns that contain an editorial article offering advice about various topics. Each article runs the length of the left column of the page and concludes in the middle of the right column. A copy of a representative "Daily Plan-It" is attached to this court's June 19, 2008, opinion denying defendant's motion to dismiss.*fn1

The content of each Daily Plan-It was created entirely by Steven Patrick Riley ("Riley"), Top of Mind's owner. Defendant did not contribute to the editorial content. At the end of each article, in the lower right corner, defendant's name is listed (in a font larger than any other type on the page, with the exception of "The 'Daily Plan-It'"). He is identified as an attorney and counselor at law, and the words "estate planning," "post mortem administration," and "business succession planning" appear before his name. Each fax also includes two or three graphic images: defendant's business logo, a photo of the building in which defendant has his office, or a head shot of defendant. Also included are his business address, telephone and fax numbers, e-mail address, and website address. At the bottom of the fax the document repeats defendant's name and phone number. This "identifying information" occupies approximately 20 to 25 percent of total area of the fax.

Plaintiffs seek summary judgment in the amount of $4,215,000 in statutory damages -- $500 for each of the 8,430 times defendant successfully sent the Daily Plan-It to one of the class member's fax machines.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265 (1986); Village Church v. Village of Long Grove, 468 F.3d 975, 988 (7th Cir. 2006). The burden is on the moving party to identify portions of the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, and affidavits that demonstrate an absence of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to "set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). When reviewing a summary judgment motion, the court must read the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The court's role "is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact." Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994).

II. TCPA

The TCPA prohibits the use of "any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send, to a telephone facsimile machine, an unsolicited advertisement." 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(C).*fn2 It also creates a private right of action whereby the recipient of an unsolicited fax may bring an action to "recover for actual monetary loss from such a violation, or to receive $500 in damages for each such violation, whichever is greater." 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(3)(B). To prevail on a claim under the TCPA, a plaintiff must show that defendant: "(1) used a telephone facsimile machine, computer or other device to send a facsimile; (2) the facsimile was unsolicited; and (3) the facsimile constituted an advertisement." Hinman v. M and M Rental Center, Inc., 545 F. Supp. 2d 802, 805 (N.D. Ill. 2008). The TCPA defines an unsolicited advertisement as "any material advertising ...


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