Trump Campaign Faces Second, Similar Suit in Same Court

Following on the heels of Plaintiff Joshua Thorne’s TCPA suit, the Donald J. Trump campaign was hit with a second TCPA lawsuit in as many days. See Roberts v. Donald J. Trump For President, Inc., No. 16-4676 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 26, 2016).  The Roberts Complaint concerns the same message (“Reply YES to subscribe to Donald J. Trump for President.  Your subscription will help Make America Great Again!  Msg&data rates may apply.”) and has been assigned to the same judge (Judge John Z. Lee) as the Thorne Complaint.  The Roberts Complaint, however, differs in a couple of key respects.

First, Roberts was filed by different plaintiffs’ counsel.  Second, Roberts includes additional allegations regarding how the Trump campaign purportedly obtained the phone numbers it texted: Roberts claims that he was required to provide his cell phone number to Event Brite when obtaining a free ticket for a March 11, 2016 Trump campaign rally, but that neither Event Brite nor the Trump campaign obtained plaintiff’s prior express consent to text him.

Third, the plaintiff in Roberts also purports to represent a slightly different class: while the purported class in Thorne is defined as nationwide class of all individuals who, during the last four years, did not provide their cell phone numbers to the Trump campaign but nonetheless received a text regarding the campaign, the purported class in Roberts is defined as a nationwide class of all individuals since June 2015 who provided their cell phone numbers to Event Brite to obtain a ticket to attend a Trump-related event and received a text from the Trump campaign despite not providing prior express consent to the Trump campaign.

Trump Campaign Sued In Federal Court in Illinois

Earlier this week, Illinois resident Joshua Thorne filed a purported class action against Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., in the Northern District of Illinois. See Thorne v. Donald J. Trump For President, Inc., No. 16-4603 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 25, 2016).  The suit seeks statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and injunctive relief for alleged TCPA violations.  Thorne alleges that although he never provided his phone number to the Trump campaign, he recently received a text message from 88022 (an SMS short code leased by the Trump campaign) stating “Reply YES to subscribe to Donald J. Trump for President.  Your subscription will help Make America Great Again!  Msg&data rates may apply.”  Thorne further alleges that the message was sent on behalf of the Trump campaign by Tatango, Inc., which he alleges offers both bulk-messaging software and a free TCPA compliance guide.  Thorne seeks to represent a nationwide class of all individuals who, during the last four years, did not provide their cell phone numbers to the Trump campaign but nonetheless received a text regarding the campaign.  Thorne claims that the Trump campaign sent thousands of the same or similar text, and seeks $500-$1500 on behalf of each class member for each such text.

The Complaint is noteworthy because it is the second TCPA complaint filed in as many months by the same plaintiff’s counsel targeting a political campaign. (See our prior coverage of election-related TCPA issues here).

Currently Pending FCC Petitions in TCPA Matters

With the TCPA dockets remaining active going into 2016, we decided to put together a list of notable petitions pending at the FCC.  The following list provides details on most petitions that the FCC has yet to rule on, including links to the petition and, where applicable, the public notice, some background on the issues implicated by the petitions, and details on important dates associated with the proceeding.

Nonpublic draft FCC orders on the following petitions are currently on circulation before the Commission for a vote:

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Ninth Circuit: Conditional Tender Does Not Moot Putative Class Action

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, the Ninth Circuit has held that an offer tendering complete relief, conditioned on the dismissal of a putative class action, is insufficient to moot the action for purposes of Article III jurisdiction.

In Chen v. Allstate, No. 13-16816 (9th Cir. April 12, 2016), the defendant deposited in escrow an amount exceeding the value of the plaintiff’s individual TCPA claim. The escrow instructions conditioned the payment of the funds on the entry of an order from the district court dismissing the action as moot. The defendant asked the Ninth Circuit to supplement the record on its pending appeal, to hold that the tender had mooted the plaintiff’s claims under Article III, and to direct the district court to dismiss the action. Continue reading

What’s My Line? The FCC Seeks Comment on a Petition Seeking a Definition of “Residential Line”

On March 31, 2016, the FCC released a public notice (“Public Notice”) seeking comment on a petition for declaratory ruling filed by Todd C. Bank (“Petition”), an attorney who maintains a home-based law practice.  As Bank’s Petition notes, the TCPA includes a number of restrictions that apply to residential lines.  For example, among them, the TCPA provides that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person . . . to initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party . . .” See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(B).  In his Petition, Bank argues that these calling restrictions apply to any line registered as a residential telephone line, including those that are in fact used for business purposes by the subscriber.  The resolution of this question could have wide-reaching implications for telemarketers, who might as a result have another screen to apply to potential calls as to whether a number held out as a business line is actually a residential line as classified by the telephone service provider. Continue reading

Court Denies Certification In Significant TCPA Case Based on Lack of Ascertainability of the Class and Commonality Issues Because Evaluating Consent Would Require Mini-Trials for Each Individual

Since our December 8, 2015 blog post regarding the scope of vicarious liability, courts have continued to wrestle with the scope of vicarious liability under the TCPA and its ramifications with respect to class certification. A recent decision denying class certification based on lack of ascertainability of the class and commonality issues from the Southern District of Ohio in Barrett v. ADT Corp., No. 15-cv-1348, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28767 (S.D. Ohio March 7, 2016), illustrates why class certification is an uphill battle in this context for plaintiffs in TCPA litigation.

In Barrett, the Court evaluated class certification in a case stemming from alleged prerecorded telemarketing calls placed by one of ADT’s licensed dealers, Security Solutions, Inc. (“SSI”).  2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28767, at *1-3. Continue reading

Death And Taxes Are Certain; TCPA Claims Are Not

In Hannabury v. Hilton Grand Vacation Co., LLC, No. 14-cv-6126, 2016 WL 1181789 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 25, 2016), the District Court for the Western District of New York held that a named plaintiff’s TCPA claims do not survive his death.

Plaintiff had filed a putative class action against Hilton for placing calls to his cell phone in an attempt to sell interests in timeshare properties, even though he alleged that his phone number was listed on the national Do Not Call Registry. The named plaintiff, however, passed away before moving to certify a class. His estate brought a motion to substitute itself as the named plaintiff. Continue reading

Seventh Circuit Affirms District Court Ruling That TCPA Fax Regulations Are Not Strict Liability

On March 21, 2016, the Seventh Circuit issued its decision in Bridgeview Health Care Ctr., Ltd. v. Clark, Nos. 14-3728 & 15-1793, holding that agency rules apply to determine whether a fax is sent “on behalf of” a principal and affirming the district court’s decision that the defendant was liable only for those faxes he authorized.

As previously reported, the lead issue on appeal in this fax-based TCPA case involved whether a defendant is liable for all faxes sent by the fax broadcaster or another third party, or only for those faxes the fax broadcaster or third party was authorized by the defendant to send (in this case, only within a 20-mile radius of the defendant’s businesses).  The district court held that because the TCPA is not a strict liability statute, a totality of the circumstances approach “assessing a variety of factors surrounding a defendant’s role in providing direction to a third party” must be used to determine whether a defendant is liable as a “sender” of the fax for purposes of the TCPA. Bridgeview Health Care Ctr., Ltd. v. Clark, 09cv5601, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45710, at *20-21 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 8, 2015).  After evaluating those factors, the district court found that the defendant was only liable for the faxes sent within geographic radius he authorized. Id. at *21-22. Continue reading

Tippecanoe and the TCPA, Too, Two

Following up on our March 9 reminder, and just in time for Super Tuesday II, the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau issued an Enforcement Advisory on March 14 titled, “Biennial Reminder for Political Campaigns about Robocall and Text Abuse.” The advisory (similar to past advisories) is a reminder to “political campaigns and calling services that there are clear limits on the use of autodialed calls or texts (known as ‘robocalls’) and prerecorded voice calls.” The advisory summarizes the TCPA’s regulations on (1) calls to cell phones, (2) calls to landlines, (3) identification requirements for prerecorded voice messages, and (4) “line seizure” restrictions. The advisory also includes an “At a Glance” summary of regulations as applied to Political Calls and a series of Frequently Asked Questions with contact information for the Enforcement Bureau for those who have unanswered questions or lingering concerns. Continue reading

Federal Court Schools Plaintiff on Limits of TCPA

The Middle District of Florida recently entered summary judgment in favor of a school board, reasoning that it is not a “person” that is subject to suit under the TCPA. See Lambert v. Seminole Cty. Sch. Bd., No. 15-0078 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 21, 2016).  The decision creates a potentially insurmountable obstacle for plaintiffs who have taken to setting their sights on school districts and other well intentioned government actors.

In Lambert, the defendant allegedly made 537 calls to the plaintiff’s cellphone shortly after he received a reassigned number. The calls used prerecorded voice prompts and messages that were meant to communicate with prospective substitute teachers, to whom the school district had issued five-digit identification codes. The plaintiff alleged that he was not the intended recipient of the calls and that he neither worked as a substitute teacher nor received an identification code. Continue reading