Southeast Texas Record

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The strange case of the man who was injured by a text message

Our View

Feb 4, 2020


You can tell a lot about a person by the way he reacts to petty grievances. If he shrugs them off or doesn’t even notice, he’s probably well-balanced and able to keep things in perspective. If, however, the least little thing sets him off, he may have serious ego – or anger-management problems – and should probably be avoided.

Unsolicited text messages are a good example of a minor annoyance. Most people just ignore them. Others get enraged. Joe Shields of Friendswood is one of the latter.

The unsolicited text message he received on his cell phone last fall from a candidate for city council apparently infuriated him. Invoking the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Shields filed suit in federal court against the ultimately unsuccessful council candidate, trial lawyer Eric Dick, and the company he contracted with to blast out his campaign message:

“Hi! :) Im Jen a volunteer. It’s a crime to feed the poor. Will you vote for Eric Dick for City Council to change that law? Sign the petition”

Sure, any contact with Eric Dick could be unpleasant – even if it’s indirect, at a distance, and merely electronic – but Shields claims he suffered “concrete injuries” and was “forced to waste precious time in dealing with the text message.” 

Concrete injuries, eh? Such as what? Indiscernible and immeasurable wear and tear to his phone’s data, memory, software, hardware, and battery? Right, those concrete injuries.

Precious time wasted? What, a nanosecond? Two nanoseconds? Seriously, Joe? 

“The automated system was set up to blast as many of the same text messages as possible to the purchased cell phone number list, which is exactly what the TCPA prohibits,” Shields asserts in his suit, in which he seeks permanent injunctive relief as well as damages for his concrete injuries.

If Eric Dick did indeed violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, as it appears he did, he should pay the appropriate penalty. For filing a frivolous lawsuit, Shields should get a swift kick in the apps.

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