In TCPA Blog’s latest column for Law360, Michael Daly, Justin Kay and Victoria Andrews addressed the issue of an alleged injury’s traceability to an alleged TCPA violation, which was recently highlighted in Romero v. Dep’t Stores Nat’l Bank and Ewing v. SQM US Inc. The United States District Court of the Southern District of California dismissed both cases based on a lack of constitutional standing because the alleged injuries could not be specifically traced back to the use of an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”). The decisions explained that, if the alleged injury would have been the same had the calls been dialed manually, then it could not be traced to use of an ATDS:
The court reasoned that “Mr. Ewing would have been no better off had Defendants dialed his number manually” since “[h]e would have had to expend the same amount of time answering and addressing Defendants’ manually dialed telephone call and would have incurred the same amount of battery depletion,” and cited McNamara v. City of Chicago, 138 F.3d 1219, 1221 (7th Cir. 1998) for the proposition that “‘[a] plaintiff who would have been no better off had the defendant refrained from the unlawful acts of which the plaintiff is complaining does not have standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge those acts in a suit in federal court.’” Id. at 5:4-12. Because the plaintiff “did not suffer an injury in fact traceable to Defendants’ violation of the TCPA,” he lacked “standing to make a claim for the TCPA violation here.” Id. at 4:14-16.
The column examines the Romero and Ewing decisions and explores whether other courts will accept this defense in future TCPA cases.
Read “Reconsidering ‘Traceability’ Element of TCPA Standing.”
TCPA Blog contributor Meredith Slawe took part in the “TCPA Class Actions Panel” at the PACE 2016 TCPA Washington Summit on September 19. This conference attracted in-house lawyers and compliance professionals from an array of companies. PACE is one of the entities leading the appeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC’s) July 2015 TCPA Order in the D.C. Circuit.
The panel, which also included prominent TCPA defense lawyers from Perkins Coie, Manatt Phelps and Greenspoon Marder and an experienced plaintiff’s class action lawyer from Edelson PC, addressed the state of TCPA-related class action litigation and where these cases are likely going in light of recent court rulings and guidance from the FCC. The discussion was particularly lively in light of the presence of attorneys on both sides of these cases.
Meredith highlighted the need for defendants in these actions to be aggressive and to dig into the facts of these cases early on. She explained that TCPA plaintiffs’ lawyers all too often fail to do the requisite pre-suit investigation of claims and that a close look at the purported facts often dooms the claims at the outset.
TCPA Blog’s Michael Daly and Meredith Slawe were recently quoted in the Law360 article, “3 Factors to Weigh in Deciding to Fight or Fold TCPA Suits.” They explained that “[t]he best approach to defending TCPA cases is to master the facts of each case as early as possible and map out multiple paths to victory. Oftentimes, the smallest details can mean the difference between whether or not a call qualifies as ‘telemarketing’ or a consumer provided ‘consent’ or equipment qualifies as an ‘automatic telephone dialing system.’” The remainder of the article examines other factors from both plaintiffs’ and defendants’ perspectives.
Read “3 Factors to Weigh in Deciding to Fight or Fold TCPA Suits.”
In Pozo v. Stellar Recovery Collection Agency, Inc., No. 15-0929 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 2, 2016), the Middle District of Florida recently entered summary judgment against the plaintiff because it determined that an ATDS had not been used to call her.
The defendant in Pozo used a web-based dialing program called Human Call Initiator (“HCI”) to initiate the calls. HCI uses a “point-and-click” process that allows calls to be initiated by human “clicker agents.” Specifically, the program will not initiate a call until a clicker agent manually confirms in a dialogue box that the call should be made to that particular number. If a call is answered, the clicker agent then refers the call to a “closer agent” who speaks with the debtor. The program also allows clicker agents to view the availability of closer agents and will not initiate a call unless a closer agent is available. Continue reading
In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Mike Daly, Justin Kay, and Victoria Andrews examine the differences in courts’ decisions regarding whether the receipt of a single call or text can be considered concrete harm for the purposes of constitutional standing in TCPA actions. The article first discusses state law claims that are routinely dismissed for lack of sufficient injury because the plaintiff alleged receipt of only one fax or text. It then reviews recent TCPA claims that have been dismissed based upon similar reasoning, and compares them against those that have found that any alleged violation of the statute establishes sufficient injury to confer constitutional standing. In doing so, the article addresses why the second line of cases employs faulty reasoning and fails to adhere to Congress’ intent and goals in enacting the TCPA: Continue reading
Yesterday, the petitioners in the consolidated appeal from the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order filed an unopposed motion seeking twenty minutes of oral argument for each side. As we previously reported, 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.
In requesting twenty minutes of oral argument time, the petitioners note the importance and the complexity of the issues raised in their petitions for review. Namely, “the kinds of equipment that fall within the [TCPA’s] restrictions on calls to wireless numbers from ‘automatic telephone dialing systems,” “the scope of liability for those who call numbers that (unbeknownst to them) have been reassigned from one, consenting consumer to another, non-consenting one,” “the methods by which consumers may revoke consent[,]” and the types of “informational healthcare-related” calls that fall outside of the TCPA’s scope. As such, the petitioners request that each side be allotted twenty minutes of oral argument time with petitioner Rite Aid arguing five minutes on the healthcare-related issues of the Order and the rest of the petitioners arguing fifteen minutes.
We will continue to monitor the pending appeal and report on any significant developments before and after oral argument on October 19th.
At last week’s annual meeting of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association, TCPA Blog’s Michael Daly participated in a panel discussion that examined how the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins is affecting class action litigation under the TCPA, the FCRA, and other recurring “gotcha” statutes. The panel explored a number of interesting issues with which courts have been grappling in TCPA cases, for example whether a plaintiff has a “concrete” harm for purposes of Article III if she received a fax without an opt-out notice, received a solitary call or text, or received calls or texts on phones that she had purchased for the specific purpose of receiving errant calls and texts to recycled numbers—all of which are all too common in TCPA litigation. The panel also examined how the decision will affect not only jurisdiction but also certification, specifically whether courts should certify classes if any harm involved is inherently individualized. The panel was moderated by Katherine Armstrong, who worked at the FTC for more than thirty years on FCRA initiatives and other consumer protection issues.
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
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. Id. Continue reading
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