Papa John's International (NASDAQ: PZZA) faces a nationwide class action lawsuit filed by customers complaining about advertising text messages they received.

Lawyers for some of the plaintiffs say damages could be $250 million ($500 for each of 500,000 "illegal" text messages sent in 2010) or more. In a press release, the lawyers said that on Nov. 9, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington certified the class action suit.

Plaintiffs in the suit, customers of Papa John's, seek damages for alleged "spam" violations of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. They allege that Papa John's illegally sent 500,000 text messages to customers without their consent, and in at least some cases, continued sending advertising texts even after being asked not to.

Erin Chutich, one of the plaintiffs in the case, is quoted in the press release as saying: "Our lawsuit is about keeping spam from spreading from our email to our cell phones." According to a report in CNNMondy, Papa John's argues that the texts were sent by "third-party vendors and a small number of franchisees," and that therefore it is not directly liable.

Penalties for the violations if the court decides otherwise could be more than $500 per text if the court determines that Papa John's is both liable, and willfully violated the law.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.