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Massage Today
August, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 08

AMTA Leadership Loses Lawsuit

Federal Court Rejects AMTA's Claim of Owning Members' Names

By Editorial Staff

On July 19, 2002, Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow granted Massage Today's motion for summary judgment on the two remaining counts of the AMTA's lawsuit.

The judge dismissed the AMTA's other four claims on August 29, 2001 before any evidence was heard.1,2 Summary judgment was granted because the judge found that it was impossible for the AMTA to win based upon the facts.

The court found that massage therapist names and addresses do not belong to the AMTA according to statements made by the AMTA's former director.3 MT's attorney Rick Cigel, Esq. explains:

"It is important to understand what the court did and did not decide. First of all, the court considered the AMTA directory essentially the same as any telephone directory one might have in their home.

"Secondly, the court did not treat Massage Today any differently than it would have an AMTA member who utilized the AMTA directory to mail a letter to a group members in their city or state. The court considered the directory a public document as to which anyone has the right to use the names and addresses.

"By deciding for Massage Today, the court rejected the AMTA's notion that they owned and could somehow control the use of their members' names and addresses. The right to a person's own name and address cannot be forfeited or usurped just because that person joins an association. This is where the AMTA tried to have it both ways. Their only hope of winning the ill-fated lawsuit was to claim ownership of their members' names, while at the same time publicly insisting that their members retained their rights to decide for themselves.

"The inability of the AMTA to establish ownership and copyright its members names, coupled with the unalterable right each person has to control the usage of their own name and address, were the deciding issues in this lawsuit. This is why most of AMTA's suit was dismissed before any evidence was heard, and why the rest of it was rejected by the court without a trial."

Judge Denlow's decision to award summary judgment to Massage Today opens the door to possible sanctions of $200,000 or more against the AMTA, depending on the decision of the court. MT first warned the AMTA of this inevitable outcome in writing on October 5, 2001.

Massage Today continues to respect the wishes of those massage therapist who want their name and contact information kept confidential. MT is still seeking a peaceful solution to this unfortunate incident. MT has offered to meet with AMTA state chapter presidents to discuss settlement of the sanctions facing AMTA in a closed-door meeting in Chicago. Hopefully this will be the first step in putting the two organizations back on track toward a cooperative relationship.

  1. Minute Order of 8/29/01 by Honorable George W. Lindberg.
  2. Most of AMTA lawsuit thrown out of court. Massage Today, October 2001. www.massagetoday.com/archives/2001/10/06.html
  3. Def. Stat. Unicon. Facts, Ex. E at 17; Pl. Res. 17.
  4. AMTA faces possible court sanctions. Massage Today, December 2001. www.massagetoday.com/archives/2001/12/13.html

For more on the AMTA lawsuit vs. Massage Today, see AMTA Faces Sanctions and Lawsuit Timeline in this issue.

 

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