A federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Texas recently addressed a question of first impression for the jurisdiction: Can professional plaintiffs who manufacture TCPA claims face counterclaims for fraud brought by the defendant in an abusive lawsuit? According to the magistrate and the district judge that adopted her recommendation, the answer is yes.
In Cunningham v. USA Auto Protection, LLC, the plaintiff—professional litigant Craig Cunningham—alleged that defendant USA Auto Protection (USA Auto) made over twenty telemarketing calls to Cunningham’s cell phone without his consent. Case No. 4:20-cv-142, 2021 WL 434243, at *1 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 8, 2021).
A recent denial of a professional plaintiff’s motion for class certification shows that, irrespective of whether such plaintiffs have standing to sue on their own behalf, courts are increasingly skeptical that contrived claims are amenable to class treatment. See Hirsch v. USHealth Advisors, LLC, No. 4:18-CV-00245-P, 2020 WL 7186380, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 7, 2020).
The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently dismissed a RICO lawsuit against a serial TCPA plaintiff, finding that, while the conduct alleged “might be unseemly,” it did not amount to racketeering activity. Jacovetti Law, P.C. v. Shelton, No. 2:20-cv-00163, 2020 WL 5211034, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 1, 2020).
The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently dismissed a serial TCPA plaintiff’s complaint sua sponte because the court concluded that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Perrong v. REWeb Real Estate, LLC, No. CV 19-4228, 2020 WL 4924533 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 21, 2020). The case demonstrates that courts are becoming increasingly frustrated with “professional plaintiffs” who repeatedly file TCPA claims against businesses and pressure them “to settle independent of the merits of the case.” Id. at *3.
A federal court presiding over a civil RICO action recently ordered prolific plaintiff’s attorney Jeffrey Lohman to produce his firm’s communications with its clients. See Navient Sols., LLC v. Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman, P.C., No. 19-461, 2020 WL 1172696, at *1 (E.D. Va. Mar. 11, 2020). This decision shows that the crime-fraud exception may overcome the attorney–client privilege where a lawyer allegedly participates in a scheme to manufacture TCPA claims. It also suggests that such conduct might form the basis of a civil RICO claim.
The plaintiff in that case, Navient Solutions, alleged that the defendants, including Lohman, operated a fraudulent scheme to manufacture TCPA lawsuits. The defendants allegedly recruited student-debtors into signing up for a sham debt-relief program and told them to stop making loan payments owed to Navient, to pay defendants instead, and to follow a script to induce telephone calls from Navient that would — and ultimately did — form the basis for TCPA claims that were filed by Lohman and others. After patiently uncovering these facts in discovery in various TCPA cases, Navient went on the offensive by bringing a civil RICO claim predicated on alleged mail and wire fraud involved in the scheme.
Two courts recently examined whether professional plaintiffs had standing to assert TCPA claims. Their decisions betray a continuing confusion concerning what it is that gives plaintiffs—particularly serial plaintiffs—standing to sue. See Cunningham v. Florio, No. 17-0839, 2018 WL 4473792 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 6, 2018); Morris v. Hornet Corp., No. 17-0350, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170945 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 14, 2018). Continue reading
The Northern District of Illinois recently granted a motion to decertify a class of TCPA plaintiffs in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, 138 S. Ct. 1800 (2018), which held that the equitable tolling doctrine does not apply to successive class actions. See Practice Mgmt. Support Servs., Inc. v. Cirque du Soleil, Inc., No. 14-2032, 2018 WL 3659349 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 2, 2018). In doing so, the court observed that plaintiffs can no longer “wait out” a statute of limitations and then “piggy back on an earlier, timely filed class action.” Id. at *1. Continue reading
Two important TCPA proceedings are underway at the FCC. The first proceeding addresses the potential creation of a reassigned number database and the second proceeding involves a host of key issues in the wake of the D.C. Circuit ruling in ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, No. 15-1211 (D.C. Cir. March. 16, 2018), including reassigned number liability, revocation of consent and the definition of an “automatic telephone dialing system.” Cf. 47 U.S. Code § 227(a)(1). Continue reading
The District of New Jersey recently dismissed a class action TCPA complaint, finding that the plaintiff did not use a reasonable method of revoking consent when she failed to follow the defendant’s straightforward directions for providing such revocation. Rando v. Edible Arrangements Int’l, LLC, No. 17-0701, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51201 (D.N.J. Mar. 28, 2018). In doing so, the court’s decision further confirmed the position within the District that the totality of the circumstances dictates whether a method of revocation of consent is reasonable and thus valid in TCPA cases. Continue reading
A recent ruling from the Southern District of Ohio reveals the lengths to which some plaintiffs will go to manufacture TCPA claims – and how some courts are refusing to allow them to get away with such blatant manipulation. In Johansen v. National Gas & Electric LLC, No. 17-587, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 208878 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 20, 2017), the plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated the TCPA by calling him on three separate days even though his residential telephone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry. Before the court were two different motions filed by the defendant: a motion to compel arbitration and a motion to stay class discovery. Continue reading