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2000-02-23
Centereach, NY. Home Depot Dials Wrong Number

Ed Mann has Home Depot's number -- literally. The Centereach, New York businessman found himself receiving hundreds of Home Depot faxes on an almost daily basis since November of 1997. Mann is a paralegal who prepares bankruptcy and divorce petitions. His business is heavily dependent on reliable phone service. In November of 1997, Bell Atlantic changed an area code in New Jersey, leaving Mann with the same first seven digit phone number as 38 of Home Depot's faxes in its regional offices in South Planfield, NJ. If a Home Depot employee or vendor forgot to add a "1" before sending a fax, it went to Ed Mann's phone as a local call. Home Depot apparently programmed many of its fax machines to redial 99 times, so Mann was bombarded with unwanted fax calls that made it impossible to use his business phone, or take advantage of the Yellow Pages advertising for his business. Mann, representing himself in court, sued Home Depot in District Court, charging the building supply company with negligence, tortious interference with business, and egregious misuse of a fax machine. Mann says that Home Depot refused to respond to his letters or to take action to resolve the situation. At one point, a Home Depot employee threatened to sue Mann because he complained to Home Depot's personnel about the faxes he was receiving. Home Depot offered to pay Mann's costs for changing his phone number, and buy him new stationery, but Mann argued that after years of advertising his number it had great financial value to his business. Mann said the constant faxing from Home Depot "literally took over" his phone line. U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert agreed with Mann, and ordered Home Depot to change its phone lines. Home Depot estimated it would cost them $12,000 to make the switch. "Frankly," the Judge said, "I think you should have done it a long time ago." A spokesman for Home Depot told Newsday: "The company emphathizes with Mr. Mann, and has tried a number of solutions already with some success." Mann had to take Home Depot to court, however, to get them off his line. But after countless hours of aggravation and wasted time, Mann got Home Depot disconnected from his phone line.

What you can do: Ed Mann represented himself in court, and in his complaint stated that lawyers for Home Depot urged the company not to give him "as little money as possible" hoping that Mann would not be able to afford to hire an attorney to represent him -- which could cost "a King's ransom". Mann asked the court to allow a jury to decide whether Home Depot and Bell-Atlantic "should pay compensatory and punitive damages for their effort to use their financial clout to intentionally injure this pro se Plaintiff after they realized they unintentionally injured him." Ed Mann is finally off the hook with Home Depot, but told reporters he would still like to win a monetary settlement from Home Depot.










 
 
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