As Courts Grapple With The Severability of The Federal Debt-Collection Exemption, SCOTUS Is Asked to Resolve The Issue

The 2016 amendments to the TCPA—which created an exemption for calls that are made “solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States”—have inadvertently reshaped the way that TCPA claims are litigated. While early decisions in Indiana, Alabama, and Florida rejected claims under the FCC’s proposed implementing rules because they never became effective, more recent decisions have focused on whether the exemption, and by extension the entire statute, violates the First Amendment.  The first of those was the Fourth Circuit’s decision in American Association of Political Consultants v. FCC, which was soon followed by the Ninth Circuit and the Southern District of Florida.

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District Court Denies Class Certification Due to Lack of Ascertainability

Recently, the Middle District of Florida denied a motion for class certification, finding that the plaintiff had not sufficiently shown that the putative classes were ascertainable. Sliwa v. Bright House Networks, LLC & Advanced Telesolutions, Inc., No. 16-0235, 2019 WL 4744938 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 27, 2019).

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From the Four Corners of the Pleading: Plaintiffs Cannot Rely On Factual Allegations Outside the Pleadings To Defeat a Motion to Dismiss

The Northern District of Texas recently dismissed a TCPA claim because “the Complaint nowhere alleges that he was called or texted using an ATDS.” The Court’s opinion emphasized that simply asserting that “the text messages were ‘automated’” was not sufficient to state a TCPA claim, and that plaintiffs cannot casually add new factual allegations in their oppositions to a motion to dismiss.

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Court Holds That Text-Messaging System Must Be Able to Randomly or Sequentially Generate Numbers to Qualify as an ATDS

The Northern District of Illinois recently entered summary judgment against a group of plaintiffs because it found the system at issue was not an ATDS.

In Smith v. Premier Dermatology, No. 17-3712, 2019 WL 4261245 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 2019), the Defendants used a proprietary “eRelevance” system to send medical marketing communications by text message to their clients’ customers or patients. Defendant eRelevance Corporation would have its clients provide their current and prospective customer contact information, which would be uploaded into the eRelevance system. Based on client-selected criteria, the system would create lists of contacts, and once eRelevance employees built a text-message marketing campaign, they could push a button to have the system automatically send text messages to each contact on the list.

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Ninth Circuit Rules Montana’s Ban on Political Robocalls is Unconstitutional

In a unanimous decision earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit ruled that a provision in Montana’s Robocall Statute restricting political messages was unconstitutional. In doing so, the court overturned a district court ruling that found for the state on summary judgment.

In Victory Processing v. Fox, a political consulting firm filed suit against the Attorney General for the State of Montana, alleging that Montana’s prohibition against political robocalls violated its First Amendment rights. The statute at issue, Montana Code section 45-8-216, specifically prohibited five categories of robocalls, including those: “(a) offering goods or services for sale; (b) conveying information on goods or services in soliciting sales or purchases; (c) soliciting information; (d) gathering data or statistics; or (e) promoting a political campaign or any use related to a political campaign.” It was that final provision that Victory Processing alleged was violative of the First Amendment as an invalid content-based restriction on speech.

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Mike Daly and Mark D. Taticchi quoted in Law360 article “TCPA ‘Merely A Pawn’ In High Court Deference Fight.”

On March 25, 2019, PDR Network and Carlton & Harris Chiropractic appeared in front of the Supreme Court to present oral arguments discussing the issue of whether the Hobbs Act requires federal courts to accept without question the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) numerous orders interpreting the TCPA.

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Court Dismisses TCPA Claim, Finds Plaintiff’s Arguments Waived

The Central District of California recently dismissed claims arising from allegedly unsolicited calls using an ATDS, finding that the plaintiff had waived her arguments by failing to address the defendant’s arguments in her response to the defendant’s motion to dismiss. See Hollis v. LVNV Funding, No. 18-1866, 2019 WL 1091336 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 2, 2019). The court found the dismissal justifiable given the plaintiff’s failure to plead her claim with specificity and her failure to cite to the specific portion of the TCPA that she believed had been violated. Id. at *5.

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Conflicting Opinions Regarding the Validity of the FCC’s Pre-2015 ATDS Rulings

As our regular readers know, one of the central issues in the ACA International case was whether the FCC’s vague and expansive definition of an ATDS would withstand judicial scrutiny. The D.C. Circuit found that it did not. As we explained at the time, ACA International explicitly set aside the portion of the FCC’s July 2015 Order that pertained to the definition of an ATDS, and by doing so also implicitly set aside the FCC’s prior statements on this subject in prior orders. Continue reading   »

Testimonial Evidence Sufficient to Defeat Class Certification: Court Denies Class Cert on Basis of Defendant’s Testimony Regarding Its Compliant Practices

The Southern District of Ohio recently denied class certification because the defendant’s unrebutted testimony—which established that its procedures ensured that faxes were only sent to those who had given their prior express permission—created individualized issues that predominated over any common ones. See Sawyer v. KRS Biotechnology, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8595 (S.D. Oh. May 30, 2018).        Continue reading   »