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   »

Central District of California Dismisses TCPA Claims Due to a Lack of Traceability

One of our recent articles discussed how federal courts have analyzed the “traceability” element of Article III in TCPA cases. Specifically, we noted that two federal courts had cited Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540 (2016) in dismissing claims because the alleged injuries were not “traceable to” (i.e., caused by) the purported violations. See Ewing v. SQM US Inc., No. 16-1609, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143272 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 29, 2016); Romero v. Dep’t Stores Nat’l Bank, No. 15-0193, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110889 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 5, 2016). In their view the “violation” was not the act of dialing a number, but rather the act of dialing a number with an ATDS. Because the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries would have been the same if the defendants had dialed their numbers manually, the courts found that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing because their alleged injuries were not traceable to the use of an ATDS. Although the cases involved only one or two calls, the courts did not limit their traceability analyses to that context. Nevertheless it remained unclear whether this rigorous approach to traceability would be applied more broadly in other contexts. Continue reading   »

There’s a Ketch: Court Reverses Entry of Summary Judgment in Favor of Plaintiffs with Muddled Timeline

A recent appellate opinion out of Oklahoma state court provides an important reminder that putative classes should not include people who did not receive the communication at issue. See Ketch v. Royal Windows, 113986 (Ct. Civ. App. Okla., Nov. 08, 2016).

In Ketch, the plaintiff filed suit after receiving an allegedly unsolicited fax advertisement from the defendant, from which it had previously requested a catalog. The defendant admitted that the fax advertisement did not have any opt-out language and evidently did not seek a retroactive waiver from the FCC. The plaintiff then moved for summary judgment on behalf of itself and a previously certified class. The trial court granted that motion, finding that Royal was liable to the tune of $290,000.00, i.e., $500 for each fax that had been transmitted. Continue reading   »