By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Many people dislike receiving robocalls. Araceli King disliked receiving 153 of them from a single company.
Time Warner Cable Inc must pay the insurance claims specialist $229,500 for placing 153 automated calls meant for someone else to her cellphone in less than a year, even after she told it to stop, a Manhattan federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
King, of Irving, Texas, accused Time Warner Cable of harassing her by leaving messages for Luiz Perez, who once held her cellphone number, even after she made clear who she was in a seven-minute discussion with a company representative.
The calls were made through an "interactive voice response" system meant for customers who were late paying bills.
Time Warner Cable countered that it was not liable to King under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a law meant to curb robocall and telemarketing abuses, because it believed it was calling Perez, who had consented to the calls.
But in awarding triple damages of $1,500 per call for willfully violating that law, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said "a responsible business" would have tried harder to find Perez and address the problem.
He also said 74 of the calls had been placed after King sued in March 2014, and that it was "incredible" to believe Time Warner Cable when it said it still did not know she objected.
"Defendant harassed plaintiff with robo-calls until she had to resort to a lawsuit to make the calls stop, and even then TWC could not be bothered to update the information in its IVR system," Hellerstein wrote.
The last 74 calls, he added, were "particularly egregious violations of the TCPA and indicate that TWC simply did not take this lawsuit seriously."
A trial had been scheduled for July 27. Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Susan Leepson said the New York-based company is reviewing the decision.
"Companies are using computers to dial phone numbers," King's lawyer Sergei Lemberg said in a phone interview. "They benefit from efficiency, but there is a cost when they make people's lives miserable. This was one such case."
Charter Communications Inc agreed in May to buy Time Warner Cable for $56 billion. The merger has yet to close.
The case is King v Time Warner Cable, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-02018.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)