We’ve all gotten them: Ill-timed phone calls that interrupt sleep, meals and showers, only to answer to a digital voice on the other end.
Serene Williams, who lives in northern Florida, endured what she figures was well more than her share: 100-plus robocalls to her cell phone from an entity that she says was Duke Energy Florida between 2013 and 2016.
The calls, Williams says in filed documents, were meant for someone else. They demanded debt repayments that Williams says she didn’t owe; she wasn’t a Duke customer.
Williams says she held on to speak to live operators. She repeatedly demanded that the calls cease. Yet still, she says, her phone rang and rang.
Never miss a local story.
Last week, she sought payback. A personal injury law firm sued Duke in Florida’s Middle District of U.S. District Court.
Williams’ lawsuit contends Duke violated the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which protects consumers from intrusive and unwanted calls. South Carolina’s former U.S. Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, the law’s sponsor in Congress, sounded as if he had gotten one too many calls himself.
“The scourge of modern civilization,” Hollings wrote in 1991, “they wake us up in the morning; they interrupt our dinner at night; they force the sick and elderly out of bed; they hound us until we want to rip the telephone out of the wall.”
Fast-forward a quarter century. The Federal Communications Commission says unwanted robocalls and telemarketing calls are its top consumer complaint.
Duke’s alleged barrage of calls, says Williams’ lawsuit, invaded her privacy, hurt her marriage and family relations and left her suffering from “indignation and crying.”
Duke has not yet formally responded to Williams’ lawsuit. In a statement, Duke said it would investigate the claims made in the lawsuit, including whether the calls were actually initiated by the company or by an entity falsely claiming to represent Duke.
“Duke Energy thoroughly respects the privacy of all individuals and does not knowingly engage in any type of unlawful telephone activity,” the statement said.
The lawsuit asks for a jury trial for unspecified damages and an injunction against further violations of the federal law.