One Judge’s Derisive View of Junk Faxes as Conversion

By Eric Goldman

Rossario’s Fine Jewelry, Inc. v. Paddock Publications, Inc., 443 F. Supp. 2d 976 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 17, 2006).

I’ve blogged before on courts’ rejection of a common law conversion claim based on the receipt of junk faxes. I’ve always viewed such claims as not really passing the smell test because of the de minimis nature of the putative harm. So I couldn’t resist Judge Shadur’s crunchiness when presented with this issue (Rossario is the recipient and Paddock is the sender):

What Rossario’s counsel identifies as the “property” purportedly converted by Paddock is the “ink or toner and paper” in Paddock’s [sic–I think the court meant Rossario’s] fax machine that were consumed in generating the one-page fax production. As modern a development as the fax may be, that contention reconfirms the teaching of Ecclesiastes 1:9 that “[t]here is no new thing under the sun,” for the ancient maxim “de minimis non curat lex” might well have been coined for this occasion.

More importantly, even apart from the niggling nature of the claim in those terms, it is lacking in the formal requirements of a conversion claim….

…it would impermissibly warp the concept of “conversion” if that label were to be attached to Rossario’s property (ink, toner and paper) that never came into Paddock’s possession at all–that was never “unlawfully held” by Paddock and as to which Paddock could be said to have “assumed control, dominion or ownership over the property” (Cirrincione v. Johnson, 184 Ill.2d 109, 114-15, 234 Ill.Dec. 455, 703 N.E.2d 67, 70 (1998)) only by stretching that language beyond its normal meaning….

Under Rossario’s approach this Court could well charge it and its counsel with “conversion” for the Court’s having had to waste paper and ink in the just-completed analysis…

Uh, in case this wasn’t clear, claim dismissed!