Circuits Are Split Over Whether Agency Law Applies to TCPA Fax Cases

LinkedInTwitterFacebookGoogle+Share

On May 9, 2016, the Sixth Circuit reversed a decision of the Northern District of Ohio granting summary judgment to Defendant in a TCPA fax case. Siding & Insulation Co. v. Alco Vending, Inc., No. 15-3551. The district court had accepted Defendant’s argument that it could not be liable under the TCPA for sending the allegedly offending faxes because while it did retain an ad agency (B2B/Caroline Abraham, a combination known well to practitioners in this space) to transmit faxes advertising its services to consenting businesses, it had never authorized transmission of faxes to non-consenting businesses, including the Plaintiff. Finding that under federal common-law agency principles Defendant could not be held vicariously liable for sending the faxes because it neither authorized the transmission of the offending faxes, nor ratified the ad agency’s conduct, the district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant. Continue reading

Seventh Circuit Affirms District Court Ruling That TCPA Fax Regulations Are Not Strict Liability

On March 21, 2016, the Seventh Circuit issued its decision in Bridgeview Health Care Ctr., Ltd. v. Clark, Nos. 14-3728 & 15-1793, holding that agency rules apply to determine whether a fax is sent “on behalf of” a principal and affirming the district court’s decision that the defendant was liable only for those faxes he authorized.

As previously reported, the lead issue on appeal in this fax-based TCPA case involved whether a defendant is liable for all faxes sent by the fax broadcaster or another third party, or only for those faxes the fax broadcaster or third party was authorized by the defendant to send (in this case, only within a 20-mile radius of the defendant’s businesses). Continue reading

Who Bears Liability For That Call Or Fax? Courts Continue To Wrestle With Direct And Vicarious Liability

Whenever more than one individual or entity is allegedly involved in the “sending” of a fax or the making of a call or text, two key questions in the litigation are: (i) what must be pleaded to state a claim against each party and (ii) if indeed there was a violation, who bears responsibility for it?

Continue reading

Plaintiffs’ Firms Ask FCC to Vacate 117 Retroactive Waivers

Plaintiffs’ firms recently filed six different applications for review of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s Order granting 117 petitions for retroactive waivers of the opt-out notice requirement for solicited faxes (47 C.F.R § 64.1200(a)(4)(iv)). Because the deadline for filing a petition for reconsideration pursuant to 47 C.F.R. § 1.429 had passed, several firms have tried to seek reconsideration by filing applications for review pursuant to 47 C.F.R. § 1.115.

Continue reading

A Busy Summer at the FCC: The Commission Releases Its Fax Waiver Order

On August 28, 2015, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (“Bureau”), on authority delegated from the Federal Communications Commission, released an Order (“August 28 Order”) granting 117 petitions seeking a retroactive waiver of the opt-out notice requirement for solicited faxes (47 C.F.R § 64.1200(a)(4)(iv)).  The August 28 Order was the first time since the October 30, 2014 Fax Order (reported on here, wherein the FCC retroactively waived the applicability of Section 64.1200(a)(4)(iv) as to 24 petitioners, and invited similarly-situated parties to file petitions of their own requesting the same relief) that the Bureau addressed the applicability of Section 64.1200(a)(4)(iv).  The petitions granted on August 28 were filed between September 30, 2014, and June 16, 2015.

Continue reading

Illinois Federal Court Follows Eleventh Circuit’s Broad Definition of “Sender” in Blast Fax Case

Through prior posts (see here, here, and here), we have monitored the FCC’s somewhat perplexing distinction between calls and faxes in the context of analyzing direct and vicarious liability under the TCPA. Just two months ago, the FCC’s position, as originally set forth in a letter brief, was adopted by the Eleventh Circuit in Palm Beach Golf Center-Boca, Inc. v. Sarris, 781 F.3d 1245 (11th Cir. 2015) (“Sarris”). The Sarris court held that “a person whose services are advertised in an unsolicited fax transmission, and on whose behalf the fax is transmitted, may be held liable directly” under the TCPA.

Continue reading

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”).

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Take Care When Crafting an Offer of Judgment

In Compressor Eng’g Corp. v. Thomas, Case No. 10-10059, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20079 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 19, 2015), Defendant Charles Thomas Jr. sought to moot the claim of Plaintiff Compressor Engineering Corporation (“Compressor”) by making an offer of judgment for $1,500, the maximum statutory award for a single violation of the TCPA.

Compressor filed suit after receiving an allegedly unsolicited fax and sought to certify a class of “[a]ll persons that are holders of telephone numbers to which a facsimile transmission was sent on behalf of Defendant advertising the goods or services of Defendant at any time from August 13, 2005 to present….” Id. at 4. In addition to seeking monetary damages, Compressor also sought injunctive relief.

Continue reading

District of Connecticut Blocks Pick-Off Attempt (Twice)

In Mey v. Frontier Communs. Corp., No. 3:13-1191-MPS, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161675 (D. Conn. Nov. 18, 2014), Plaintiff Diana Mey alleged that she received two calls to her cell phone from Frontier’s automatic telephone dialing system. Id. at *2-3. Mey filed a complaint against Frontier and simultaneously moved for class certification. Id. at *4-5. Two months later, Frontier wrote to Mey and offered to settle her claims with a payment of $6,400 plus taxable costs and entry of prospective injunctive relief.  Mey declined. Id. Frontier then moved to dismiss, arguing that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Frontier’s offer had “mooted Ms. Mey’s individual claim and all potential class claims.” Id.

Continue reading