The Middle District of Florida recently entered summary judgment in favor of a school board, reasoning that it is not a “person” that is subject to suit under the TCPA. See Lambert v. Seminole Cty. Sch. Bd., No. 15-0078 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 21, 2016). The decision creates a potentially insurmountable obstacle for plaintiffs who have taken to setting their sights on school districts and other well intentioned government actors.
In Lambert, the defendant allegedly made 537 calls to the plaintiff’s cellphone shortly after he received a reassigned number. The calls used prerecorded voice prompts and messages that were meant to communicate with prospective substitute teachers, to whom the school district had issued five-digit identification codes. The plaintiff alleged that he was not the intended recipient of the calls and that he neither worked as a substitute teacher nor received an identification code. Continue reading
On January 20, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a long-awaited ruling in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez. Although their reasoning differed, six of the Justices held that an unaccepted offer of complete relief does not in and of itself deprive a court of Article III jurisdiction by mooting a plaintiff’s claim.
The Majority Opinion
The majority opinion written by Justice Ginsburg adopted the reasoning of Justice Kagan’s dissent in Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk. The majority reasoned that, under the language of Rule 68(b) and “basic principles of contract law,” an unaccepted offer of judgment, like an unaccepted offer to contract, is a legal nullity that “creates no lasting right or obligation” and has “no continuing efficacy.” The fact that the offer was unaccepted was critical to the majority’s reasoning because it meant that the plaintiff’s claim “stood wholly unsatisfied.” Indeed, the majority noted several times throughout its opinion that the plaintiff “gained no entitlement to the relief” previously offered and had not received the relief previously sought, and thus retained a personal stake in the outcome of the litigation. See Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, No. 14-857, slip op. at 8-12 (Jan. 20, 2016).
In a recent Southern District of Texas decision, Cantu v. Platinum Mktg. Group, Case No. 1:14-CV-71, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90824 (S.D. Tex. Jul. 13, 2015), plaintiff Hector Cantu brought suit against defendant Platinum Marketing Group LLC d/b/a/ DiabetesHelpNow.com, LLC (“Platinum”) for calls made to his cell phone in violation of the TCPA. In considering Cantu’s motion for entry of default judgment, the court concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant.
Appropriate application of the Administrative Orders Review Act (aka the Hobbs Act) can become a contentious issue in some TCPA cases, and in this post we highlight a few recent examples. The Hobbs Act provides exclusive jurisdiction to the federal court of appeals to determine the validity of all final orders of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and also specifies that any party aggrieved by a final order of an agency such as the FCC may file a petition to review the order in the court of appeals with appropriate venue within 60 days after its entry. Thus, while plaintiffs in TCPA cases may allege that aspects of the TCPA laws or FCC rules have been violated, they are not free to collaterally attack the substance of FCC rules that they have not timely challenged. The FCC is understandably concerned when plaintiffs mount an indirect challenge of the agency’s rules, in some cases so much so that the agency participates in a court proceeding.