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Fax Weighed, 22 Cents Won in 'Junk Mail' Suit

July 04, 1991|JERRY HICKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — It was only 22 cents, not the kind of civil court judgment to do cartwheels over. But James H. Morrissey is elated nonetheless, victorious in his battle against "junk" mail.

Morrissey filed a claim against Delbert Aud, head of Computers in Action in Anaheim, who advertises by sending out thousands of unsolicited computer faxes each week.

Morrissey was so sick of "junk mail" ads coming onto his fax machine at his Anaheim tool and die company that he decided to sue Aud in small claims court to make his point. He sought $7.87 damages.

"On some of them, we just faxed them back and asked them to take us off their list," Morrissey said. "But with this fellow we decided to prove a point. He makes his living costing people like me a lot of time and trouble when he sends these darned things out to us."

Aud says he sends out about 300 unsolicited faxes each night. The business he's advertising is the fax business: He charges 8 cents a page to fax out ads for customers. Morrissey figures that in a month's time, Aud is costing people receiving his faxes thousands of dollars in paper, labor and other costs.

But no hard feelings.

"Actually, Mr. Aud and I talked before court, and he's a very nice fellow," Morrissey said. "But it's just the principle of the darned thing that made me go ahead to court anyway."

The two men shook hands after the judge's decision.

Morrissey won his judgment Tuesday from Superior Court Judge Stephen J. Sundvold. Although Sundvold said he was concerned about violating Aud's First Amendment rights, he finally was swayed by the fact that it was costing Morrissey more money to receive Aud's faxes than it was costing Aud to send them out.

The judge decided on 22 cents because that was Morrissey's estimate of the cost of the paper. Morrissey had also sought $1 for machine use (based on a $100 monthly rental fee) and $6.65 for labor based on the fact that it took three people to shepherd Aud's fax to the trash can). But the judge declined to award expenses.

Besides paying Morrissey his 22 cents, Aud must pay the $28 in court costs.

"Next time someone doesn't want one of these junk faxes, at least now they'll know that they can cost the person sending it 22 cents--along with another $28," Morrissey said.

Morrissey, 61, said he isn't going to stop the fight now. He plans next to try to get something done about junk faxes at the state Legislature.

But for now, he asks anyone sending out junk faxes to please skip his company, Anaheim Jig.

"I know a lot of people in business have to depend on junk mail, or even those unsolicited telephone calls," Morrissey said. "But you can hang up on one of those guys, and throw the junk mail in the trash. You can't get rid of people like Mr. Aud without it costing you money."

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