TAMPA — Bryan Hanley of Tampa says he entered a Tampa Bay Lightning contest in the hopes of winning four tickets to see the Bolts play the Boston Bruins last December.
Instead, he said he got a near-daily barrage of promotional texts from the Lightning, and he has filed what he hopes will become a class-action suit against the team in U.S. District Court in Tampa.
Hanley responded to a Lightning contest to win the tickets by texting the word "parent" to the team, according to the suit. After that, he began receiving one or more texts on a near-daily basis pitching him ticket offers or other promotions. Each gave him the option of ending the texts by sending "stop" in response, and he wanted to do that, the suit says, "but he was afraid to do so because he feared it might prevent him from winning ticket to the Lightning vs. Bruins hockey game."
Once the game came and went without him winning any tickets, Hanley did text "stop" to the team to opt out of the texts. He contends that the texts he received constituted advertisements sent to him by an automatic telephone dialing system without his prior express written consent as required by the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
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Hanley's suit, filed on March 5, seeks up to $2,000 in damages, plus attorneys' fees, for every text the Lightning sent to him or others. The suit, filed by the law firm of Carey Rodriguez Milian Gonya of Miami, says there are likely thousands of people throughout the United States who could join the suit, and it seeks to have the case made into a class-action suit.
In response, an attorney for the Lightning has asked a federal judge to dismiss or delay the case.
For one thing, Lightning attorney Dennis Waggoner of Tampa says in court pleadings, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act is unconstitutional because it restricts speech based on who is speaking and what they are saying. Moreover, he argues that the restrictions are not, as is required, narrowly tailored to achieve the government's interests and that the Federal Communications Commission has not provided adequate guidance to how the law should be applied. Considering that the communications commission is working on a definition of what constitutes an automated telephone dialing system, Waggoner said the case should be put on hold until the agency finishes that work.
A team spokesman said Tuesday that the Lightning would have no comment beyond the court filings.
Last year, the same Miami law firm, representing Chad Fernandez of Miami, filed one of two similar suits against the Tampa Bay Rays. The baseball team has denied engaging in any prohibited conduct. Those suits have been consolidated and are pending in U.S. District Court in Tampa.
Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times