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Illinois Court of Appeals: Prisoner Has Standing to Sue Ameritech for Fraud

On July 1, 2008, an Illinois Court of Appeals held that a prisoner had standing to bring a claim against Ameritech for consumer fraud. Johnnie Flournoy, an Illinois state prisoner at the Joliet Correctional Center, filed suit against Ameritech in state court alleging the company had “deliberately terminated his collect calls prematurely,” forcing him to call the same party again.

As a consequence, his family members were charged multiple surcharges and fees for accepting his collect calls. Furthermore, because Flournoy sent his mother money to pay for the calls he made, he suffered damages personally. The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice.

The Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, finding that Flournoy had stated a cause of action under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, 815 ILCS 505/1, et seq. In doing so, it “settled a question of fact – did Flournoy sufficiently allege that he suffered actual damages as a result of Ameritech’s alleged deceptive practices.” See: Flournoy v. Ameritech, 351 Ill.App.3d 583 (Ill.App.Ct. 3d Dist. 2004), appeal denied. [PLN, Dec. 2004, p.31].

Upon remand, the trial court granted Ameritech’s motion to dismiss for lack of standing to pursue a consumer fraud case. Flournoy appealed. The Court of Appeals held that its previous decision decided the issue in Flournoy’s favor under the law-of-the-case doctrine. The appellate court had previously found that Flournoy stated a claim under the Consumer Fraud Act, and that his allegation that he sent money to his mother to pay the Ameritech bills sufficiently established he had suffered actual damages.

“Given the fact that Flournoy actually paid the allegedly fraudulent billings, we find that the trial court erred in finding that he lacked standing to bring his complaint,” the Court of Appeals stated. The judgment of the circuit court was reversed and the case remanded. See: Flournoy v. Ameritech, Ill.App. 3d Dist., Case No. 3-07-0411 (unpublished).

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Related legal case

Flournoy v. Ameritech