Time For A Timeout In TCPA Litigation

In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Mike Daly, Meredith Slawe, and Dan Brewer discuss why courts should temporarily stay TCPA cases pending the regulatory appeal of the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Order, which is set for oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on October 19, 2016. The article addresses the flaw in plaintiffs’ argument that they are prejudiced while awaiting a decision: Continue reading

Seventh Circuit Holds That TCPA Does Not Shift Attorneys’ Fees or Create Common Funds, Reverses Order Entitling Individual Plaintiffs To More Than $500 Per Violation

In Holzman v. Turza, Nos. 15-2164 & 15-2256, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12594 (7th Cir. July 8, 2016), the Seventh Circuit reversed an order that could have resulted in individual payments of $500 per violation plus attorneys’ fees, i.e., more than the $500 in statutory damages for which the statute provides.

After the plaintiff prevailed on the merits, the trial court directed the defendant to deposit $4.215 million into court, which represented the $500 in statutory damages for each of the 8,430 faxes at issue. It then ordered that one third of the $4.215 million be used to pay class counsel and that two-thirds of the $4.215 million be used to pay class members. Id. at *3. Class members would be sent a check in the amount of $333 per fax, i.e., two thirds of $500. If, however, a check was uncashed or undeliverable, class members who had cashed their checks would receive a second distribution of up to $167 (i.e., so that their total recovery could, in theory, reach $500 per fax).  Id. If any funds remained after that second distribution, then, and only then would they revert to the defendant. IdContinue reading

Mobile App Operator Not Liable Under TCPA

In an important decision applying the FCC’s July 2015 Declaratory Ruling, a district court recently dismissed TCPA claims against Life360, a mobile application operator. See Cour v. Life360, Inc., Case No. 16-cv-00805-TEH (N.D. Cal. July 28, 2016). The decision provides critical guidance as to when users of a mobile app – rather than the mobile app provider – will be deemed to initiate the text messages, for purposes of assessing TCPA compliance. Continue reading

FCC and District Court Provide Additional Clarity to the TCPA’s Emergency Purpose Exception

Over two years ago, we first argued that a pharmacist’s prescription refill reminder calls fell within the emergency purpose exception to the TCPA in Kolinek v. Walgreen Co. (N.D. Ill.).  The TCPA, of course, prohibits many types of autodialed or pre-recorded/artificial voice calls to cell phones if made without the prior express consent of the called party, except where the calls are made “for emergency purposes.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A). In Kolinek, the court held at the motion to dismiss stage that further factual development was necessary to evaluate whether the emergency purpose exemption precluded plaintiff’s claims because the complaint did not allege sufficient detail regarding the nature of the calls. Although the case settled before the court had the opportunity to rule on the issue on summary judgment, the court acknowledged the viability of the emergency purposes defense as a basis for approving the class action settlement despite objections that the settlement fund was a tiny fraction of potential liabilities. Continue reading

First Amendment Protects Automated Calls Made for Political Campaigns in Arkansas

As we’ve previously discussed, while First Amendment challenges to the TCPA have largely been unsuccessful, First Amendment challenges to restrictions on calls or texts made in connection with political campaigns may fare differently. Further evidence of this distinction came last week, when a district court in the Eastern District of Arkansas declared Arkansas’s restriction on using automated or prerecorded  telephone calls to “‘solicit[] information, gather[] data, or for any other purpose in connection with a political campaign’” unconstitutional as “a content-based regulation that does not survive strict scrutiny.” Gresham v. Rutledge, No. 16cv241, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97964, at *2-3 (E.D. Ark. July 27, 2016) (quoting Ark. Code Ann. § 5-63-204(a)(1)). Continue reading

Robocall Blocking “Strike Force” Initiated at FCC Chairman’s Request

For some time the FCC’s Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has been calling on wireless and wireline carriers alike to take more aggressive steps to assist consumers in preventing unwelcome or unsolicited calls and spam messages. The FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling, for example, contained a discussion focused on resolving the question of whether carriers had a legal obligation to transmit all calls without blocking. In the Matter of Rules & Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 30 FCC Rcd 7961, ¶¶ 152-63 (July 10, 2015). The Declaratory Ruling affirmed that nothing in the Communications Act or FCC rules or orders prohibits carriers from offering or implementing call blocking technologies for those customers who choose to use them. Id. Continue reading

Oral Argument Scheduled In The Consolidated Appeal From The FCC’s July 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit scheduled oral argument for October 19, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order (“Order”). As we previously reported, ACA International filed the first petition for review on the same day the Order was issued. That and subsequent appeals were centralized in the D.C. Circuit by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.  The Joint Petitioners filed their opening brief on November 25, 2015, Rite Aid filed a separate brief the same day that focused on healthcare-related issues, the FCC responded to both briefs on January 15, 2016, and the parties filed final briefs on February 24, 2016. Continue reading

FCC Issues Declaratory Ruling Confirming an Exemption from Certain of the TCPA’s Restrictions for the Federal Government and its Contractors When Acting within Scope of an Agency Relationship

The FCC recently issued a declaratory ruling addressing petitions that had been filed by Broadnet Teleservices LLC (“Broadnet”), National Employment Network Association (“NENA”), and RTI International (“RTI”), each of which sought guidance or clarification on the extent of the TCPA’s governmental exception when a contractor is placing calls or texts pursuant to its work on behalf of the government. Each of the petitioners provide, or have members that provide, calling services on behalf of federal government entities; Broadnet offers teletown hall calling services for state and local governments as well and RTI performs social science survey work for entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NENA represents providers of employment services to beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. These providers are required to contact program-eligible beneficiaries to provide information about potential programs and services.
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The Rise Of The Professional TCPA Plaintiff

Filing TCPA actions has become a form of sport for certain plaintiffs. In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Seamus Duffy, Mike McTigue, Mike Daly, Meredith Slawe and Dan Brewer address the manufacturing of TCPA claims, which came to a head in a recent case involving an unabashed professional plaintiff who purchased at least 35 cellphones and numbers with the sole purpose of receiving calls to recycled numbers and then filing suit and cashing in. The article notes the growing use (and abuse) of the TCPA by such plaintiffs:
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Courts Continue To Require That TCPA Classes Be Presently and Readily Ascertainable By Reference To Objective Criteria

In a decision that many saw as lowering the bar for class certification, the Eighth Circuit recently reversed a trial court’s decision that a putative class was not readily ascertainable by reference to objective criteria. Sandusky Wellness Center LLC v. Medtox Scientific Inc., No. 15-1317, 2016 WL 1743037 (May 3, 2016). The Eighth Circuit held that classes must be readily ascertainable, which it had yet to squarely do, but found that this particular class was ascertainable, as it included individuals who “were sent” the fax at issue and “fax logs show[ed] the numbers that received faxes.” In doing so, it rejected the argument that fax logs do not necessarily identify the “recipient” of a fax who would have standing under 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1). Continue reading