This is a wonderful way for Jews to be a light unto the nations — by fighting back against spammers.
Forward: Sometime in the late morning of November 27, 2012, a fax machine rang at a high school for Orthodox girls in Rockland County, New York.
The message that spooled out of the machine’s printer was an invitation to an information session about a London-based university.
The Orthodox school’s response to the fax? A lawsuit, filed in federal court against the London-based university.
It wasn’t the school’s first time suing over a fax. Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley, located on a quiet suburban street near the town of Monsey, New York, has initiated at least seven class action lawsuits since 2011 under a federal law that restricts faxed advertisements.
That federal law dates from the 1990s, when spam faxes tied up phone lines and used up printer paper. Now, with many businesses using virtual fax machines that deliver incoming messages as digital files, the cost of spam faxes is often negligible.
Yet spam fax lawsuits are a growth industry among enterprising tort lawyers, with the number of new cases skyrocketing since 2012. But Bais Yaakov is a highly unusual spam fax suit plaintiff, experts told the Forward. Not-for-profits rarely act as lead plaintiffs in these cases, and experts said they had never heard of a school bringing a spam fax suit.
Bais Yaakov has sued companies in Massachusetts, New York and Minnesota. In three separate lawsuits, the school has sued ACT, Inc. — the company behind the ACT college readiness test, Alloy, Inc. — the firm that created the Gossip Girl teen romance series and the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
“People bring these cases to me because they’re sick and tired of being bombarded with robocalls [and] faxes that tie up their telephone lines and interfere with their businesses,” said Bais Yaakov’s attorney in all of its spam fax cases, Aytan Bellin. “This is something that the American people are furious about.”
Bellin’s firm received $900,000 of a $6 million settlement reached this past March with the London-based university over the 2012 faxes. A $2.6 million settlement in a Bais Yaakov class action case against the college guide publisher Peterson’s earned Bellin’s firm over $800,000 in fees.
Bais Yaakov itself has not earned much money from the suits. Between the two settlements reached so far in Bais Yaakov’s cases, the school appears to have received only $15,500.
Bellin is the husband of a prominent rabbi who leads the Conservative movement’s rabbinical arm.