Court Grants Summary Judgment to Plaintiff Class in Blast Fax Case, Awards More Than $22 Million in Statutory Damages

In September, we reported that a court in the District ofNew Jersey denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in a “fax blast” class action, concluding that the defendants could be directly liable under the TCPA for fax advertisements they did not actually send, but rather that were sent by a third-party marketing firm to promote the defendants’ goods or services. See City Select Auto Sales, Inc. v. David Randall Associates, Inc., No. 11-2658, 2014 WL 4755487 (D.N.J. Sept. 24, 2014) (“City Select I”).

Six months later, relying heavily on that earlier ruling, the court has entered summary judgment on behalf of the plaintiff class and awarded it statutory damages of $22,405,000. City Select Auto Sales, Inc. v. David Randall Associates, Inc., et al., No. 11-2658, 2015 WL 1421539 (D. N.J. Mar. 27, 2015) (“City Select II”).

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Failure to Identify Fax Recipients Shows Putative Class Is Not Ascertainable

A court in the Northern District of Illinois recently denied class certification in a “fax blast” case because the plaintiff failed to meet its burden of proof in showing that the putative class was ascertainable where there was no evidence identifying the recipients of the faxes. Physicians Healthsource, Inc. v. Alma Lasers, Inc., et al., No. 12-4978, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41339 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2015).

From the perspective of defense counsel, this case is a reminder of the importance of holding plaintiffs to their burden proof in showing that all of Rule 23’s requirements are satisfied when opposing a motion for class certification. As we have written previously, plaintiffs face a hurdle in showing a class is ascertainable where there is no objective criteria establishing the identities of recipients of a particular communication.

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D. Mass. Grants Summary Judgment to Plaintiff, Finds Predictive Dialer to be an ATDS

The District of Massachusetts recently entered summary judgment in favor of a plaintiff after deferring to FCC statements that purport to expand the definition of an automated telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) to include predictive dialers that can dial stored numbers without human intervention. See Davis v. Diversified Consultants, Inc., No. 13-10875 (D. Mass. June 27, 2014).

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Sixth Circuit Vacates Denial of Class Certification in Blast Fax Case

In April, we reported on the denial of a class certification motion in a blast fax case in the Northern District of Ohio. On June 12, the Sixth Circuit vacated that order. A copy of the court’s order in In re Sandusky Wellness Center, LLC, No. 14-0301, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 12093 (6th Cir. June 12, 2014), is available here.

Plaintiff Sandusky Wellness Center (“Sandusky Wellness”) had alleged that defendants Wagner Wellness, Inc., and its owner, Robert Wagner (collectively “Wagner”), had violated Section 227 of the TCPA by purchasing a list of fax numbers from a third party and sending unsolicited advertisements via fax. See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(C) (making it unlawful “to use any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send, to a telephone facsimile machine, an unsolicited advertisement” unless certain exceptions apply).

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N.D. Ohio Finds Putative Fax Blast Class Action Fails to Meet Commonality Requirement

A district court in the Northern District of Ohio recently denied a plaintiff’s motion for class certification in a TCPA blast fax case, finding that the proposed class failed to meet the commonality requirement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(2).  Specifically, the court noted that “the proposed class includes entities that requested the facsimiles and/or had prior business relations” with the defendants and that the faxes sent to those entities did not violate the TCPA.  A copy of the opinion in Sandusky Wellness Center, LLC v. Wagner Wellness, Inc., et al., No. 3:12 CV 2257, 2014 WL 1224418 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 24, 2014), is available here.

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Two California Federal Courts Send Putative TCPA Class Actions to Arbitration

Two federal district courts in California recently hit the brakes on putative TCPA class actions, granting the defendants’ motions to compel arbitration and informing the plaintiffs that, by signing contracts containing arbitration clauses, they relinquished any right to pursue TCPA claims through a class action.

In Mendoza v. Ad Astra Recovery Services, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-06922-CAS(JCGx), 2014 WL 47777 (Jan. 6, 2014 C.D. Cal.), plaintiff Miguel Mendoza sued an agent of a payday lending firm that contacted him regarding repayment of a loan. Mendoza, who had obtained a $255 payday loan from non-party Speedy Cash, alleged that he began receiving calls from defendant Ad Astra on his cell phone after he failed to repay the debt. When Mendoza did not answer these calls, Ad Astra allegedly left “voicemail messages using a pre-recorded or artificial voice.” He contended that such messages violated the TCPA. See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A).

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