Supreme Court Denies Petition Seeking Review of D.C. Circuit Fax Decision Holding that FCC Exceeded Its Authority

The Supreme Court today denied the petition for certiorari filed by the class action plaintiffs in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, thus leaving in place the D.C. Circuit’s ruling that “although the [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] requires an opt-out notice on unsolicited fax advertisements, the Act does not require a similar opt-out notice on solicited fax advertisements . . . . [nor does it] grant the FCC authority to require opt-out notices on solicited fax advertisements.”  852 F.3d 1078, 1082 (D.C. Cir. 2017).  Our summary of the briefing on the petition is available here.

As we’ve discussed previously, the D.C. Circuit’s ruling (binding nationwide pursuant to the Hobbs Act) makes it much tougher for plaintiffs in TCPA fax suits to certify a class.  The plaintiffs’ bar has typically sought to certify classes based on violations of the opt-out notice requirement for solicited faxes, because a class defined in such a way side-stepped the inherently individualized issue of whether the fax was solicited or not. With the opt-out notice requirement for solicited faxes eliminated, plaintiffs’ attorneys have a much tougher challenge.  Indeed, in Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. Lagasse, LLC, No. 16 C 513, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182499 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 3, 2017), a district court relying on the D.C. Circuit’s decision found that individualized issues of consent precluded certification of a class of fax recipients where certification could not be premised on whether the faxes included an opt-out notice.  The plaintiff in Alpha Tech has appealed that decision, arguing (among other things) that the D.C. Circuit’s decision is not binding in the Seventh Circuit.  Given the significance of this issue for the plaintiff’s bar, we can expect to continue to see collateral challenges like this to the repeal of the FCC’s solicited fax rule notwithstanding that the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Bais Yaakov is now final.

Briefing Concludes on Cert Petition Seeking Supreme Court Review of D.C. Circuit Fax Decision

On January 30, 2018, briefing closed on the petition for certiorari filed in the Supreme Court by the class action plaintiffs in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC.  The class action plaintiffs are seeking review of the D.C. Circuit’s March 2017 decision (discussed at length here, here, here, and here) holding that the FCC exceeded its statutory authority when it promulgated regulations in 2006 requiring that a fax advertisement sent with the prior express consent of the recipient include an opt-out notice because “although the Act requires an opt-out notice on unsolicited fax advertisements, the Act does not require a similar opt-out notice on solicited fax advertisements . . . . [nor does it] grant the FCC authority to require opt-out notices on solicited fax advertisements.”  Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, 852 F.3d 1078, 1082 (D.C. Cir. 2017). Continue reading   »

Northern District of Illinois Holds That Opt-Out Notices Are Not Required On Solicited Faxes In The Seventh Circuit

Following the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, 852 F.3d 1078 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 31, 2017), we explained on this blog and elsewhere that the issue of whether a fax advertisement is solicited or not would come back into play in many cases and make it much harder for the plaintiffs’ bar to certify a class of recipients. And that is precisely what occurred in a recent decision from the Northern District of Illinois in Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. LaGasse, LLC, No. 16-cv-513 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 3, 2017): the court granted defendants’ motion to deny class certification. In the process, the court also slammed the door on several arguments proffered by plaintiffs’ counsel in an effort to evade the impact of Bais Yaakov.

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Promotion of Company’s Product on a Prohibited Fax Advertisement Held Insufficient to Sue the Company as the “Sender” Under the TCPA

The Eastern District of Michigan recently rejected an expansive interpretation of “sender” liability for unsolicited fax advertisements alleged to violate the TCPA, ruling that the mere inclusion of a company’s products on fax advertisements sent by a third party is not enough, standing alone, to saddle the company with liability for sending the faxes. Rather, to be liable for the faxes, the company must have taken affirmative steps to advertise its products through the faxes. This common-sense ruling, which further aligns Sixth and Seventh Circuit case law on this important issue, should provide ammunition for companies defending TCPA claims based on faxes sent by others in the distribution chain without the authorization or approval of the defendant. The Court also issued another in the litany of recent decisions confirming the limits on personal jurisdiction over foreign corporations. Continue reading   »

D.C. Circuit Denies Petition for Rehearing En Banc in Appeal of Solicited Fax Rule

As we predicted, the D.C. Circuit today denied the plaintiff’s petition for a rehearing en banc of the panel decision striking down the FCC’s regulations requiring opt-out notices on solicited faxes. The per curiam order notes only that “[u]pon consideration of the petition for rehearing en banc, the response thereto, and the absence of a request by any member of the court for a vote, it is ORDERED that the petition be denied.” This result is hardly surprising given (i) the FCC Chairman’s current position that the panel decision overturning the FCC was correct (an anomaly that is the result of turnover at the Commission following the election results in November 2016) and (ii) the infrequency with which petitions for rehearing en banc are granted. We expect that the plaintiffs’ bar will continue its appeal efforts via a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, but also expect that effort to meet the same fate as the petition for rehearing.

Allegedly Deficient Opt-Out Language in Fax Did Not Give Rise to a Concrete Injury Under Spokeo

We’ve previously reported on the D.C. Circuit’s March 31 decision, which held that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234, Slip. Op. at 4 (D.C. Cir. 2017). And as we recently discussed, the plaintiff intervenors in that case have sought a rehearing en banc. Given the significance of the D.C. Circuit’s decision in TCPA class actions, it would not be a surprise if the en banc petition is just the beginning of the plaintiffs’ bar’s efforts to attack the D.C. Circuit’s decision. While the D.C. Circuit’s ruling is welcome news to defendants in TCPA actions, the Eastern District of Missouri recently dealt another blow to the plaintiffs’ bar. In that regard, shortly before the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, a district court held that an allegedly deficient opt-out notice in a fax the plaintiff invited did not give rise to a concrete injury under Spokeo, and dismissed the case for lack of Article III standing. St. Louis Heart Ctr., Inc. v. Nomax, Inc., No. 4:15-CV-517 RLW, 2017 U,S., Dist, LEXIS 39411 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 20, 2017). Continue reading   »

Plaintiff Intervenor Petitioners Challenge Majority Opinion in Bais Yaakov, Fail to Address Standing to Do So

As we’ve previously reported, on March 31, the DC Circuit issued a 2-1 opinion in the Bais Yaakov appeal holding that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . .unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Slip Op. at 4. Given the profound impact we expect that ruling to have in TCPA fax litigation, it is no surprise that the plaintiffs’ bar is fighting that decision: on April 28, 2017, the plaintiff intervenors in the Bais Yaakov appeal filed a petition for rehearing en banc before the full D.C. Circuit. Continue reading   »

FCC’s Loss on Fax Rule Could Curb Explosion of TCPA Suits

TCPA Blog contributor Justin Kay was recently quoted in the Law360 article, “FCC’s Loss on Fax Rule Could Curb Explosion of TCPA Suits.” The D.C. Circuit’s recent decision negating an FCC regulation requiring opt-out notices on solicited faxes is likely to have long-term consequences for TCPA class actions. Continue reading   »

D.C. Circuit refutes FCC’s Authority to Require Opt-out Notices on Solicited Faxes . . . and Chairman Pai Agrees

In a post immediately following the November 8, 2016 oral argument in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, No. 14-1234 (D.C. Cir.), we noted that, based on the lines of questioning from the bench, the three judge panel of Judges Brett M. Kavanaugh, Cornelia T.L. Pillard, and A. Raymond Randolph appeared to be leaning toward a 2-1 decision with Judges Kavanaugh and Randolph likely forming the majority that would find that the FCC was not empowered to require opt-out notices on solicited faxes. On March 31, the DC Circuit issued its opinion and confirmed our analysis, finding in a 2-1 opinion authored by Judge Kavanaugh (joined by Judge Randolph) that “the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule is . . . .unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” Slip Op. at 4. The Court therefore vacated the 2006 Fax Order and remanded to the FCC for further proceedings. It declined to address the propriety of the waiver program, finding it moot in light of its holding. Slip. Op. at 11 n.2. Continue reading   »

Eastern District of Michigan Dismisses Claim Because Fax Was Not An Advertisement

The Eastern District of Michigan recently dismissed a TCPA claim with prejudice after finding that the single fax at issue did not constitute an advertisement. See Matthew N. Fulton, D.D.S., P.C. v. Enclarity, Inc., No. 16-13777, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28439 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 1, 2017). In doing so, it reaffirmed the Sixth Circuit’s position that, in deciding whether a fax is an advertisement, courts should not look beyond the four corners of the document and should ask whether it “‘promote[s] goods or services to be bought or sold’” and “‘ha[s] profit as an aim.’” Id. at *4 (citation omitted). Continue reading   »