A recent denial of a professional plaintiff’s motion for class certification shows that, irrespective of whether such plaintiffs have standing to sue on their own behalf, courts are increasingly skeptical that contrived claims are amenable to class treatment. See Hirsch v. USHealth Advisors, LLC, No. 4:18-CV-00245-P, 2020 WL 7186380, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 7, 2020).
In a decision that may have far-reaching consequences, a divided panel of the Eleventh Circuit ruled that incentive awards to named plaintiffs—which are routine in TCPA and other class action settlements—are improper. See Johnson v. NPAS Solutions, LLC, No. 18-12344, 2020 WL 5553312, at *1 (11th Cir. Sept. 17, 2020). Despite acknowledging that incentive payments are commonplace in modern class action litigation, the majority held that such awards are prohibited under “on-point Supreme Court precedent” from the late 1800s and required reversal of the district court’s approval of a $1.4 million class settlement.
The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently dismissed a RICO lawsuit against a serial TCPA plaintiff, finding that, while the conduct alleged “might be unseemly,” it did not amount to racketeering activity. Jacovetti Law, P.C. v. Shelton, No. 2:20-cv-00163, 2020 WL 5211034, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 1, 2020).
The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently dismissed a serial TCPA plaintiff’s complaint sua sponte because the court concluded that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Perrong v. REWeb Real Estate, LLC, No. CV 19-4228, 2020 WL 4924533 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 21, 2020). The case demonstrates that courts are becoming increasingly frustrated with “professional plaintiffs” who repeatedly file TCPA claims against businesses and pressure them “to settle independent of the merits of the case.” Id. at *3.
A federal court presiding over a civil RICO action recently ordered prolific plaintiff’s attorney Jeffrey Lohman to produce his firm’s communications with its clients. See Navient Sols., LLC v. Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman, P.C., No. 19-461, 2020 WL 1172696, at *1 (E.D. Va. Mar. 11, 2020). This decision shows that the crime-fraud exception may overcome the attorney–client privilege where a lawyer allegedly participates in a scheme to manufacture TCPA claims. It also suggests that such conduct might form the basis of a civil RICO claim.
The plaintiff in that case, Navient Solutions, alleged that the defendants, including Lohman, operated a fraudulent scheme to manufacture TCPA lawsuits. The defendants allegedly recruited student-debtors into signing up for a sham debt-relief program and told them to stop making loan payments owed to Navient, to pay defendants instead, and to follow a script to induce telephone calls from Navient that would — and ultimately did — form the basis for TCPA claims that were filed by Lohman and others. After patiently uncovering these facts in discovery in various TCPA cases, Navient went on the offensive by bringing a civil RICO claim predicated on alleged mail and wire fraud involved in the scheme.
Last year, this blog analyzed whether and when professional plaintiffs have standing to assert TCPA claims. A Massachusetts District Court recently examined that issue and held that a plaintiff’s standing “boils down to” how a plaintiff uses a given phone line.
In Rhodes v. Liberty Power Holdings, LLC, No. 18-10506, 2019 WL 4645524 (D. Mass. Sept. 24, 2019), the Court examined TCPA claims brought by two representatives of a putative class. One of them, Samuel Katz (“Katz”), fits the profile of a professional plaintiff, as he is a “frequent litigant in TCPA cases” who “closely tracks the telemarketing calls he receives.” Katz has served over two dozen TCPA demand letters and has filed at least nine TCPA lawsuits. In the present matter, he alleges that he received thirteen automated calls to a “residential landline that he maintained for emergencies.”
Two courts recently examined whether professional plaintiffs had standing to assert TCPA claims. Their decisions betray a continuing confusion concerning what it is that gives plaintiffs—particularly serial plaintiffs—standing to sue. See Cunningham v. Florio, No. 17-0839, 2018 WL 4473792 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 6, 2018); Morris v. Hornet Corp., No. 17-0350, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170945 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 14, 2018). Continue reading
Happy holidays to all the readers of the TCPA Blog! Below is a link to an article written by Michael Daly, Meredith Slawe, and John Yi on some recent decisions addressing contrived revocation of consent claims in text message based lawsuits.
The initial comments are in on the Petition of serial plaintiffs Craig Moskowitz and Craig Cunningham to require written consent for autodialed informational calls, and reactions are overwhelmingly negative. A diverse group of trade associations, nonprofits, medical institutions, and others flooded the docket with over thirty formal comments opposing the Petition. In addition to these formal comments, there were several short, informal comments submitted via the FCC’s “express” filing system by employees of credit unions and other financial institutions opposing the Petition. Just three comments expressed support. Continue reading
Filing TCPA actions has become a form of sport for certain plaintiffs. In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, our TCPA Team addresses the manufacturing of TCPA claims, which came to a head in a recent case involving an unabashed professional plaintiff who purchased at least 35 cellphones and numbers with the sole purpose of receiving calls to recycled numbers and then filing suit and cashing in. The article notes the growing use (and abuse) of the TCPA by such plaintiffs: