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$2,500 Settlement in Illinois Prisoner’s Telephone Disconnect Suit – After Nine Years

An Illinois prisoner has accepted $2,500 to settle a lawsuit against Ameritech, in which he accused the telecommunications company of fraudulently and intentionally disconnecting phone calls made by prisoners.

Prisoner Johnnie Flournoy filed suit in state court in 2002. He alleged fraud and negligence against Ameritech, a prison phone service provider, for intentionally disconnecting his collect calls early in order to force a second call that would require another connection fee and surcharge.

The state court dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the Illinois Public Utilities Act grants the Illinois Commerce Commission exclusive jurisdiction over complaints concerning excessive rates or overcharges. The Third District Court of Appeal for Illinois, however, found the matter was a civil action based upon alleged fraud and negligence that resulted in multiple surcharges and connection fees, and held the circuit court had jurisdiction. [See: PLN, Dec. 2004, p.31].

The parties litigated the case for the next seven years, including another appeal and appellate ruling in favor of Flournoy. [See: PLN, Aug. 2009, p.37]. The eventual settlement provided that Ameritech, which is owned by the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, denied wrongdoing. Nonetheless the company agreed to pay $2,500 to settle the matter. Flournoy represented himself pro se through the litigation. See: Flournoy v. Ameritech, Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court (IL), Case No. 02MR855.

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Related legal case

Flournoy v. Ameritech