SFMS Files Petition For Interlocutory Review With The Wisconsin Court Of Appeals Challenging Application Of "Voluntary Payments" Doctrine To Claims Alleging Violations Of Statutes Prohibiting "Cramming"

December 5th, 2007

On November 27, 2007, Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah ("SFMS") filed a petition for interlocutory review of a decision from the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, which dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for damages against Defendants Wisconsin Bell, Inc., d.b.a. AT&T Wisconsin; ILD Telecommunication, Inc. d/b/a/ ILD Teleservices; Local Biz USA, Inc.; and AmericaTel Corporation (collectively, "Defendants"). The case was originally filed on August 25, 2006 in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Civil Action No. 06-CV-008092, and alleged claims against Defendants for violations of various Wisconsin state statutes, including a statute that prohibits telecommunications companies from engaging in deceptive billing. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants illegally profited from "cramming"--a deceptive telecommunications billing scheme by which Defendants wrongfully charged Plaintiffs on their telephone bills for services that were neither requested nor authorized. In seeking to dismiss the case, Defendants argued that the common law voluntary payments doctrine required dismissal of the claims asserted by Plaintiffs.

The Circuit Court held that, although Plaintiffs' Complaint adequately alleged that Defendants had engaged in illegal "cramming" and other unlawful billing activities, the voluntary payments doctrine mandated dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims for damages. In their petition seeking immediate appellate review of the Circuit Court's decision, Plaintiffs argued that, if the Circuit Court's ruling was allowed to stand, an individual who was billed for unauthorized charges on a local telephone bill, for services that were never requested or received, could not bring any claim for damages against the companies that profited from those bogus charges if the victim of the deceptive billing failed to notice the unauthorized charges and unwittingly paid them, even though the billing of those unauthorized charges is a direct violation of Wisconsin's statute prohibiting "cramming." In their appeal, Plaintiffs respectfully submit that the Circuit Court erred as a matter of law by applying the common law voluntary payments doctrine to dismiss their statutory claims. It is Plaintiffs' position that the common law voluntary payments doctrine is not a barrier to Plaintiffs who assert statutory (as opposed to common law) claims, such as claims based on violations of consumer protection statutes specifically enacted by the Wisconsin legislature to protect the citizens of the State.

For further information on this case and the pending petition for interlocutory review, please contact James E. Miller at 1-866-540-5505 or jmiller@sfmslaw.com or James C. Shah at 1-877-891-9880 or jshah@sfmslaw.com.