The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri recently issued an opinion with significant implications for plaintiffs’ standing to allege violations of the TCPA under Article III. In the case of Thompson v. Genesco, Inc. (2024 WL 81187), the court addressed the critical question of whether the plaintiff had Article III standing to bring his TCPA claim.
Dennis Thompson filed a lawsuit against Genesco, Inc. in Missouri state court, alleging that Genesco had unlawfully sent him unwanted marketing text messages in violation of the TCPA and its accompanying regulations. Genesco removed the case to federal court, and the court, sua sponte, ordered supplemental briefing to address whether Thompson had Article III standing to maintain his lawsuit.
Among the regulations promulgated by the FCC pursuant to the TCPA is 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(d), which prohibits telemarketing calls unless certain requirements are met, including maintaining an internal company “do not call” list. Thompson alleged that Genesco failed to comply with these requirements and sought relief, including damages of at least $500 per offending text message.
Before addressing the merits of the case, the Court had to determine whether Thompson had Article III standing, which requires three specific conditions: a cognizable injury, an injury fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct, and an injury likely to be redressed by the requested relief.
Injury: Thompson alleged that receiving unwanted marketing text messages constituted a concrete and particularized injury. While the Eighth Circuit had not addressed this issue directly, other circuit courts had concluded that receiving unwanted text messages qualified as a concrete injury. The District Court agreed with these precedents, finding that the harm caused by the receipt of unwanted text messages was sufficiently concrete and particularized to satisfy the injury requirement of Article III standing.
Traceability: The critical issue in this case was the traceability of Thompson’s injury to Genesco’s alleged unlawful conduct. The District Court found that Thompson could not establish a causal connection between his injury and Genesco’s failure to comply with § 64.1200(d).
Critically, Thompson had not requested to be placed on Genesco’s internal do-not-call list, and he did not allege any way in which he would have benefited from Genesco’s compliance with § 64.1200(d). The Court noted that even if Genesco had maintained a compliant internal do-not-call list, Thompson would have suffered the same injury because he never made the request. Therefore, the Court concluded that Thompson’s injury was not traceable to Genesco’s alleged failure to maintain the list.
The District Court cited a similar case from the Eleventh Circuit, Cordoba v. DIRECTV, LLC, where plaintiffs failed to establish traceability because they had not asked to be included on internal do-not-call lists.
This decision adds to a growing body of precedent suggesting that plaintiffs may not have Article III standing to sue for TCPA violations when they do not make a direct request to be included on internal do-not-call lists. It underscores the importance of clearly demonstrating the causal link between the alleged injury and the defendant’s actions to establish standing under Article III. This decision serves as a reminder that plaintiffs must demonstrate a direct and traceable connection between their injuries and the defendant’s actions to establish standing under Article III when pursuing TCPA claims.