Court Finds that Professional Plaintiffs’ Standing “Boils Down to” Purpose of Phone Line

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.”

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Court Finds Plaintiff’s ATDS Evidence Insufficient and Grants Summary Judgment for Defendant

The Southern District of Florida recently granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment on certain aspects of a plaintiff’s TCPA claim because plaintiff could not establish that defendant used an ATDS to call her cell phone. Johnson v. Capital One Services, LLC, No. 18-CV-62058, 2019 WL 4536998, *1 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 19, 2019).  The case illustrates that a plaintiff must present concrete evidence demonstrating that a defendant used an ATDS in order to survive a motion for summary judgment.  See id. at *3-4.  A plaintiff cannot rely on purported “admissions” obtained from a call agent on the phone or plaintiff’s own subjective characterizations of the call.  Id.

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Court Holds That Text-Messaging System Must Be Able to Randomly or Sequentially Generate Numbers to Qualify as an ATDS

The Northern District of Illinois recently entered summary judgment against a group of plaintiffs because it found the system at issue was not an ATDS.

In Smith v. Premier Dermatology, No. 17-3712, 2019 WL 4261245 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 2019), the Defendants used a proprietary “eRelevance” system to send medical marketing communications by text message to their clients’ customers or patients. Defendant eRelevance Corporation would have its clients provide their current and prospective customer contact information, which would be uploaded into the eRelevance system. Based on client-selected criteria, the system would create lists of contacts, and once eRelevance employees built a text-message marketing campaign, they could push a button to have the system automatically send text messages to each contact on the list.

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Florida U.S. District Court Grants Victory for Defendant, Finds its Dialing Equipment Is Not an ATDS

In many TCPA cases, the sufficiency of a plaintiff’s allegations, particularly those concerning the defendant’s alleged use of an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”), are tested at the pleadings stage through a motion to dismiss. No matter which side prevails, a trial court’s ruling at that procedural moment is limited to whether ATDS allegations are plausible—not whether any evidence actually proves that an ATDS was, in fact, used. And because so many lawsuits are resolved through an early settlement, a defendant often does not have a day in court on the question of whether its dialing equipment as configured and used constitutes an ATDS.

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Federal Courts Continue to Split Over Whether They Have Personal Jurisdiction Over Claims Brought By Non-Forum Class Members Against Non-Forum Defendants

For years, the plaintiffs’ bar has crammed thousands of non-forum class members into a single action in order to more easily justify broader discovery requests, and to more quickly aggregate statutory damages. And many defendants and courts simply assumed that plaintiffs could do so. But that assumption was called into question by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, a mass tort case in which the Supreme Court held that federal courts do not have specific personal jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims merely because resident plaintiffs “allegedly sustained the same injuries as did the nonresidents.” Continue reading   »

Inadmissible Hearsay Will Not Create Genuine Issue of Fact Regarding Whether Plaintiff Revoked Consent

The Southern District of Texas recently entered summary judgment in favor of a TCPA defendant, holding that the plaintiff had failed to present competent proof that she had orally revoked her consent to be called by a collection agency. Young v. Medicredit Inc., No. 17-3701, 2019 WL 1923457, at *4 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 26, 2019). Continue reading   »

N.D. Cal. Court Grants Summary Judgment, Finding that Text Messages Were Neither Advertising Nor Telemarketing

The Northern District of California recently granted summary judgment dismissing a plaintiff’s TCPA claim based on text messages that confirmed plaintiff’s hotel reservations and encouraged him to download defendant’s app. Phan v. Agoda Co. Pte. Ltd., No. 16-CV-07243-BLF, 2018 WL 6591800 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 13, 2018). The case turned on whether the texts constituted advertising or telemarketing—thus requiring plaintiff’s prior express written consent. After considering “[b]oth the context and the content of the messages,” the court held that the texts were neither advertising nor telemarketing, and granted summary judgment in defendant’s favor because it was undisputed that plaintiff had given the requisite consent for informational or transactional texts. Continue reading   »

Eastern District of Michigan Finds No Strict Liability for Faxes Sent Without Defendant’s Knowledge or Involvement

Recently, an Eastern District of Michigan court entered summary judgment in favor of a defendant upon finding that it had neither transmitted nor caused the transmission of the fax at issue. In Garner Properties & Management, LLC v. Marblecast of Michigan, Inc., the plaintiff alleged that it had received an unsolicited fax that referenced the products of two companies: Marblecast of Michigan and American Woodmark. The plaintiff sued both companies in a putative class action. American Woodmark eventually moved for summary judgment and argued that the plaintiff had failed to offer evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that it had “sent” the fax at issue. See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(C) (“It shall be unlawful for any . . . to use any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send, to a telephone facsimile machine, an unsolicited advertisement, unless. . . .”) (emphasis added). In opposition, the plaintiff argued that American Woodmark was strictly liable as a sender under the TCPA because the fax had referenced its products. Continue reading   »

District Court Grants Summary Judgment for Defendant, Finding its Dialing System Is Not an ATDS

As consumers and businesses await clarity from the FCC regarding the definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”), district courts throughout the country continue to grapple with competing appellate decisions in order to resolve pending cases within this uncertain and fast-changing legal landscape. A recent decision, Roark v. Credit One Bank, N.A., No. 16-173, 2018 WL 5921652 (D. Minn. Nov. 13, 2018) (available here), provides an illustration of this current climate, as a Minnesota federal judge had to address four appellate cases concerning the ATDS definition from this year alone, including the seminal ACA International decision. The decision is also notable because the court concluded that the defendant’s “predictive dialing systems” did not violate the TCPA. Continue reading   »

Ninth Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Defendants, Rejects Plaintiff’s Vicarious Liability Theory

The Ninth Circuit recently affirmed summary judgment for five defendants—three payday lenders and two lead-generation vendors—in a certified class action where it was undisputed that the text message at issue violated the TCPA.  See Kristensen v. Credit Payment Servs. Inc., 879 F.3d 1010 (9th Cir. 2018).  Rejecting Plaintiff’s ratification theory, the court held that the defendants were not vicariously liable for the actions of a non-party “publisher,” AC Referral—the entity that initiated the text.  The Ninth Circuit’s opinion provides useful guidance as to scope of TCPA liability for all players involved in an SMS campaign, particularly those that do not actually press “send.” Continue reading   »