Phone Book
Phone directories have a legal requirement to maintain accuracy, but one erroneous listing has led to a $417,000 lawsuit. Image: Flickr / jamiesrabbits / CC-BY-SA

Phone directories are a million-dollar information industry. Mistakes in phone directories have led to everything from dropped listings to regulatory investigations. In Montana, a listing that put a barbecue restaurant under “carcass removal” has led to a lawsuit against Dex.

Bar 3 Bar-B-Q and carcass removal

In 2009, a Montana restaurant called Bar 3 Bar-B-Q was erroneously listed under the “Animal Carcass Removal” section of the phone directory. Restaurant owner Hunter Lacey found out about it when calls started coming in. In 2010, the directory was re-printed on paper and republished online with the same erroneous listing, despite Lacey informing Dex of the error. The misprinted listing has gotten the restaurant mentioned on Jay Leno and drawn attention online.

Lawsuit over incorrect listing

When Lacey discovered that his restaurant listing had ended up in the wrong place again, he contacted Dex Media through his lawyer. Lacey asked Dex Media for a settlement of $417,000. In the years since the listing was first printed, the restaurant lost more than $18,000. The settlement was not approved by Dex, and the lawsuit went to the courts this month. Lacey claims the listing was placed in retaliation for his refusal to purchase advertising in the Dex directory.

Dex’s counter argument

The lawsuit over the carcass removal listing is not cut-and-dry. Dex media claims first that Lacey assumed the risk of inaccurate listings when he agreed to have the restaurant’s phone number published, at the time he signed up for a phone number. Secondarily, Dex claims that a restaurant employee “berated” a Dex employee, which could have “forseeable negative consequences.” Finally, Dex claims that the person who entered the incorrect listing was not operating within the scope of that employee’s normal duties. In short, Dex claims that it is not responsible, and even if it is, it was a rogue employee. Lacey says the move was retaliation and that the company’s quality control should have caught the mistake after two years.

A phone directory’s responsibility

The claim that a phone directory company is responsible for the accuracy of its listings is not without precedent. In Virginia, regulators conducted a very in-depth investigation into Verizon directories. In 2007, Verizon entered into a settlement that required it to ensure 99 percent accuracy in directories.


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