Last week, the Second Circuit, in Leyse v. Lifetime Entertainment Servs., LLC, affirmed the denial of class certification in a putative TCPA prerecorded message class action for lack of an ascertainable class. (We previously blogged about this district court decision.) Lifetime, concerned that viewership of its hit show “Project Runway” would suffer due to a channel change, hired a third-party vendor, OnCall Interactive, to contact New York City residents with a prerecorded message from the show’s host informing potential viewers of the channel change. Leyse v. Lifetime Entertainment Servs., LLC, No. 13-cv-5794, 2015 WL 5837897, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 2015). OnCall, in turn, purchased a list of phone numbers from an unknown third-party vendor; Lifetime never obtained that list. Id. at *2. Continue reading
The Second Circuit last week confirmed that entries of judgment satisfying an individual plaintiff’s claims moot TCPA class actions.
In Bank v. Alliance Health Networks, LLC, No. 15-cv-4037 (2d Cir. Oct. 20, 2016), the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the class claims after an entry of judgment, pursuant to the defendants’ offer of judgment, rendered the class claims moot. The Second Circuit acknowledged that the Supreme Court held in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S. Ct. 663 (2016) that an unaccepted offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff’s claims. “But where judgment has been entered and where the plaintiff’s claims have been satisfied, as they were here when [the plaintiff] negotiated the check, any individual claims are rendered moot.” Continue reading
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
Since our December 8, 2015 blog post regarding the scope of vicarious liability, courts have continued to wrestle with the scope of vicarious liability under the TCPA and its ramifications with respect to class certification. A recent decision denying class certification based on lack of ascertainability of the class and commonality issues from the Southern District of Ohio in Barrett v. ADT Corp., No. 15-cv-1348, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28767 (S.D. Ohio March 7, 2016), illustrates why class certification is an uphill battle in this context for plaintiffs in TCPA litigation. Continue reading
The Southern District of Alabama recently denied a plaintiff’s motion for preliminary approval of a proposed classwide settlement of TCPA claims. See Bennett v. Boyd Biloxi, LLC, No. 14-0330-WS-M, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163987 (S.D. Ala. Dec. 7, 2015). The plaintiff claims that he and some 70,000 other people received unlawful telemarketing calls promoting the defendant’s casino, resort, and spa. Describing the plaintiff’s motion as a “somewhat pro forma” submission that did not “come close to bearing his burden of persuading the Court to certify the proposed settlement class,” the court sent him back to the drawing board “to research and effectively present the legal argument . . . needed to support certification.”
On Tuesday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, which concerns (among other things) whether courts can certify classes that are defined in a way that would include people who do not have Article III standing. For those who were unable to attend the argument, a transcription of the argument is available here.
Defendants’ discussions of the Third Circuit’s recent decisions in Leyse v. Bank of America and Dominguez v. Yahoo have been all doom and gloom. Some of that disappointment is understandable, as the Third Circuit vacated notable defense rulings and expanded the scope of consumers who have statutory standing to file suit under the TCPA. On closer examination, however, both of the decisions offer not only a sword to plaintiffs but a shield to defendants. This is the first of two posts that will dissect those decisions and discuss their implications for the ever-growing number of defendants that are facing TCPA claims.
An essential requirement for certifying a class under Rule 23 is a means for presently ascertaining who is or is not a member of the proposed class. A trio of recent district court decisions has applied this ascertainability requirement to proposed TCPA class actions. The cases reach different conclusions as to whether a list of telephone numbers is a necessary or sufficient means of ascertaining class membership.
The Middle District of Florida recently denied class certification because the plaintiff failed to prove that consent (or more to the point, an alleged lack of consent) could be established on a classwide basis. In doing so, it confirmed that class action plaintiffs have the burden of proving that issues are susceptible to classwide proof even though a defendant may bear the burden of proving or disproving some of those issues at trial. See Shamblin v. Obama for Am., No. 13-2428, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54849 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 27, 2015).
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.