A federal judge on Thursday awarded $32.4 million to a St. Louis couple and $3.2 million others who improperly received robocalls voiced by Mike Huckabee in 2012.
U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber ruled the calls Huckabee recorded to promote the 2012 faith-based film "Last Ounce of Courage" violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act because those solicited did not consent to the calls.
The act would have allowed Webber to award $1.6 billion or $500 for every call found in violation but decided the penalty offered under the statute too severe.
"The amount of damages prescribed by the statute are so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportionate to the offense and obviously unreasonable," Webber wrote in his decision, reported by the St. Louis Dispatch.
He added the $32 million penalty, or $10 per call, "reflects the severity of the offense" and one of the purposes of the TCPA – to have a "deterrent effect and to account for unquantifiable losses including the invasions of privacy, unwanted interruptions and disruptions at home, and the wasted time spent answering unwanted solicitation calls or unwanted voice messages."
Ron and Dorit Golan, of St. Louis County, sued in 2012 after receiving two calls that went to voicemail. They are on the Do Not Call registry. They came to later represent the entire class of call recipients.
Webber ruled during a trial in U.S. District Court in St. Louis last month Gabriel Joseph III, of Virginia, and his affiliated companies had violated the act, but withheld a judgment on how much damages would be awarded.
While former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee testified during the trial, he had been dismissed from the suit long before his testimony.
Joseph argued he believed had consent to call the households in the campaign and had never had a TCPA violation or complaint. Lawyers for Joseph also said he believed that there were 45 seconds of political information before callers heard any promotion of the movie.
The plaintiffs say they plan to appeal Webber's reduced penalty.