TV Attorney Goes After CBS Over Phone Calls


     DALLAS (CN) - A Dallas personal injury attorney who hosted a call-in TV show sued CBS and one of its local affiliates, claiming they failed to forward most of his viewers' calls to his law office.
     Thomas Corea, of Corea Trial Group LLC, claims their failure cost his law firm $1.4 million.
     According to the complaint in Dallas County Court, Corea was pitched the show by defendants CBS, CBS Stations Group of Texas and Viacom International - operators of KTVT Channel 11 and KTXA Channel 21.
     Corea said he agreed to pay $2,750 for each 30-minute episode of "Ask the Lawyer with Tom Corea," to be broadcast live at noon Tuesdays and Thursdays on Channel 21.
     The complaint states that the key draw and "deal breaker" term for Corea was the defendants' "absolute and unequivocal promise" that every call to the show would be answered by a live person through Channel 21's telephone system, who would transfer every call to Corea's law office or calling service. This arrangement was important for Corea because of professional and ethics rules that prevent solicitation of legal representation.
     "Indeed, it was mutually understood and agreed upon between the parties that simply having 'a list' of the names and telephone numbers of callers to the show was entirely insufficient and, for purposes of plaintiff's ability to communicate with such callers to the show, would run directly contrary to the plaintiff's professional responsibilities and ethical duties to not place itself in a position whereby it could be engaging in solicitation of legal representation (or barratry) because, with just a 'name and telephone number,' plaintiff had no indicia of if such callers were contacting the plaintiff with an inquiry about possible legal representation," the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Corea says that the first broadcast of the show in July 2011 was a wild success that resulted in more than 1,200 viewer calls - far more calls than previous pilot episodes with other attorney hosts. He says he immediately employed a call center to handle up to 1,000 calls, and that the defendants repeatedly assured him that all calls to the show were transferred automatically to the call center.
     But as more episodes aired, Corea says, the number of viewer calls dramatically declined. He claims the defendants failed to follow through on promises to run additional promotions on the stattion or shoot a new promo spot to "boost the numbers."
     The complaint states that beginning in September 2011, Corea learned from his call center that the defendants failed to transfer calls for long periods of time during the show, and that the defendants "red face denied" the problem.
     Corea adds that unbeknownst to the defendants, he instructed their account salesman to provide him with a weekly list of all calls to the station's call-tracking system, which is provided by defendant CallSource. He compared that data with his own call center data and concluded that "only 44 percent of the calls placed to the show were actually reaching the plaintiff."
     Corea said that when he uncovered the discrepancy, the defendants began placing significant pressure on his firm to pay outstanding invoices for the show.
     He says his firm has refused to pay, believing it has been "cheated" out of 56 percent of its business opportunities, to the tune of $1.4 million in revenue.
     Corea claims that in subsequent meetings the defendants denied there had been any technical failures on their part, that it was his call center's fault, and that station management was "feeling the pressure from New York" to collect the outstanding invoices because "they do not care about these issues."
     Corea claims that an agreement for additional exchanges of information was not fulfilled, as the defendants provided only a "highly audited" report presented by CallSource that indicated a certain number of calls during an isolated time of the month, and showed that 23 percent of the calls did not reach his office.
     Corea claims that in January the defendants told him a "bald faced lie," that CallSource call tracking system data was destroyed and no longer available, 30 days after its creation.
     He claims he was told this despite a report he had just been provided and in spite of the lists of calls provided by the defendants' account representative.
     Corea seeks damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, deceit, aiding and abetting, tortious interference with contract, negligence, civil conspiracy, deceptive trade practices, breach of special relationship, breach of confidence and unfair competition. He filed the complaint pro se