TAMPA, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – The Buffalo Bills have agreed to pay up to $3 million to settle a class action lawsuit against them that alleges they sent too many text messages to fans who signed up for a text messaging service.
Consumers who file a claim will receive their settlement as a Buffalo Bills debit card to be used in the Buffalo Bills team store or at its online retail store that expires 48 months after the date issued.
Buffalo Bills Inc. has denied any wrongdoing and has denied that it committed, threatened or attempted to commit any wrongful act or violation of law or duty alleged in the class action lawsuit.
The debit cards will have $57.50 for each approved claim of a settlement class member in Tier 1, $65 for Tier 2 and $75 for Tier 3, according to the settlement document filed Jan. 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Jerry Wojcik, the Bills fan who filed the class action lawsuit, will receive an incentive award in the amount of $5,000.
The parties have also agreed that the defendant shall pay class counsel the sum of $562,500 in attorneys fees and costs associated with the class action lawsuit.
In the class action, which was filed in 2012, Wojcik claimed the team violated the terms of its text service by sending him 13 messages over two weeks when it promised to send no more than five per week.
The lawsuit was panned as frivolous by some sports fans, media commentators and legal experts, according to The Buffalo News.
The Bills said in a legal filing that an estimated 39,750 phone numbers had been registered through the now-defunct text-messaging service.
“The Buffalo Bills have reached a settlement in this matter which we believe is in the best interest of our organization and our fans,” Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold in a statement Monday said. “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.”
Under the terms of the settlement, the Bills promise to put in place “safeguards” to ensure any new service abides by limits set by the team on the number of messages.
Wojcik signed up for mobile text alerts from the team in September 2012 after visiting its website, according to the original lawsuit filed in October 2012.
The website promised fans who enrolled in the messaging service would receive three to five messages per week for 12 months, according to the suit.
Wojcik claimed he received six messages during his second week in the program and seven messages during a later, one-week period.
Wojcik claimed in his suit that the extra texts violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and he sought statutory damages of $500 per excessive message for negligent violations and up to $1,500 per message for willful violations.
The court will conduct a Fairness and Final Approval Hearing on Aug. 20 in the Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in Tampa.
Wojcik was represented by Scott D. Owens of Scott D. Owens PA; James Salvatore Giardina of the Consumer Rights Group LLC; and Keith J. Keogh of Keogh Ltd.
The Bills were represented by Jeffrey F. Reina of Lipsitz Green Scrime Cambria LLP and Janelle Alicia Weber of Shutts & Bowen LLP.
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida case number: 8:12-cv-02414
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.