ST. LOUIS (CN) – A federal judge certified a class Wednesday to sue the telemarketers behind a robocall scheme that used the voice of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to promote a movie.
“Liberty,” the recorded message began. “This is a public survey call. We may call back later.”
About 4 million people across the country received a call about the purported survey, but the lawsuit led by Ron and Dorit Golan says they were really just subjected to advertising “The Last Ounce of Courage,” a Christian drama that bombed at the box office in 2012.
Using a recording of Huckabee’s voice, the survey asked consumers how they felt about “traditional American values.”
Huckabee was previously dismissed as a defendant to the Golans’ lawsuit, which alleges violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber certified the Golans to represent a class of Americans who received the Huckabee-movie calls within four years of Oct. 3, 2012.
Defendants include Veritas Entertainment, Veritas Marketing Group, FreeEats.com, AIC Communications, Mission City Management and Courage 2012. They have not returned a request for comment.
Ronald Eisenberg, an attorney for the Golans, praised the decision in an interview.
“I think that the judge issued a thorough ruling,” said Eisenberg, of Schultz & Associates in Chesterfield, Mo.
In granting the certification, Webber found that the relationship between the Golans and their attorney, Ronald Eisenberg of Schultz & Associates in Chesterfield, Mo., was proper. The defendants questioned the adequacy of the plaintiffs and attorney, since they serve together as training coordinators on the St. Louis Track Club.
“That’s one of the considerations in granting a class certification is the adequacy of the lead plaintiffs and their counsel,” Eisenberg said in an interview Thursdays. “The judge has to make sure that the lead plaintiffs will look out for the best interests of the class and that it is not just a get rich quick scheme for the attorney.”
An attack over his running relationship with clients was a first for Eisenberg. Usually a defendant will go after a business relationship between an attorney and the clients, but Eisenberg said there wasn’t such a relationship between him and the Golans.
Eisenberg noted that the biggest issue right now is a pending motion to compel against the defendants regarding details on the people called. He estimates damages of at least $2 billion.
Huckabee persuaded the court to dismiss the claims against him by arguing that the use of his voice alone cannot make him liable.
“We were disappointed with that ruling given that is was his voice and he wanted to plug his radio show in the script,” Eisenberg said of that development. “We felt that was sufficient.”
The lawsuit, scheduled for trial in August, still has heavy-hitter defendants including James Leininger, a Texas billionaire who financed most of the movie.