Spam mail generally refers to unsolicited commercial emails.  Spam emails are sometimes called "junk mail", or "bulk mail."  Examples include money making opportunities, health and diet scams, or work-at-home schemes.  Although spam emails are usually commercial in nature, they can extend to private use, such as "chain letters."  In some instances, unsolicited commercial faxes, print mail, newspapers, and telephone calls can be considered spam mail, and treated similarly.

How Can a Person be Liable for Spam Emails?

Even though spam email liability is a new area in the law, there are already several recognized causes of action.  Some of them include:

The most common cause of action against a sender of spam email is actually breach of contract with their Internet service provider (ISP).

What Activities Can Lead to Spam Email Liability?

Most of the time sending spam emails will lead to liability, but there are times when other actions can create liability too.  They include:

  • Causing the sending of spam emails,
  • Authorizing the sending of spam emails,
  • Participating in the sending of spam emails, or
  • Intentionally or recklessly assisting or enabling others in the sending of spam emails.

What Is Need to Prove Breach of Contract with an ISP?

In order to find a sender of spam email liable for breach of contract to their ISP, several elements have to be met.  These include:

  1. An agreement to contract for email services from the ISP existed,
  2. The sender of spam email breached that contract by using the ISP for unauthorized or unacceptable use of sending spam emails,
  3. The ISP complied with all the conditions of the contract, and
  4. The ISP was damaged by the sender of spam emails.

What Can be Recovered in a Lawsuit Against the Sender of Spam Emails?

Generally speaking, a successful lawsuit against the sender of spam emails can lead to the recovery of any of the following:

  • Liquidated damages if applicable,
  • Attorney’s fees,
  • Punitive damages,
  • Interest, or
  • Statutory penalties.

Who Can Be Liable for Spam Email?

The most obvious person who can be liable for spam emails is obviously the sender.  In certain instances, liability can be extended in other directions.  Potential defendants can include:

  • An ISP, or
  • A state or federal agency.

Do I Need an Attorney for my Spam Email Liability Issue?

If you think the sender of spam email is liable to you, or you are being sued for sending spam email, it is highly recommended that you contact a business attorney. They will be able explain the issues and help to protect your rights.