HB 761 states that these amendments will not only take effect immediately, but also apply retroactively to any pending FTSA action styled as a class action but was not certified as such before the Governor signed the law. But there are already signs that the law’s retroactivity provision will face challenges, including one court’s recent observation that the constitutionality of that particular provision is unclear. See Murray v. Riders Share, Inc., No. 6:22-cv-2329-PGB-DCI, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83388, at *3 n.2 (M.D. Fla. May 12, 2023) (“Retroactive application of a civil statute ordinarily transgresses constitutional limitations on legislative power ‘if the statute impairs vested rights, creates new obligations, or imposes new penalties.’”).
Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently reversed class certification and directed dismissal, holding that the plaintiff had failed to establish any concrete harm from an alleged violation of the TCPA and thereby lacked standing. Pet Supermarket, Inc. v. Eldridge, No. 3D21-1174, 2023 WL 3327267 (3d Fla. Dist. Ct. App. May 10, 2023). (Note that this opinion has yet to be released for publication in the permanent law reports, as a motion for rehearing, clarification, or certification, or a petition for review, may be pending.)
Eldridge had visited the defendant’s store, where he learned about a promotion in which customers could win free dog food for a year if they enrolled in the defendant’s text-message program. After enrolling, Eldridge immediately received two texts, and then received an additional five texts over a period of six months. All the texts contained the message “Reply STOP to end” and concerned promotional or advertisement information.
Plaintiffs’ attempts to keep FTSA cases venued in Florida state courts are being upended by the Eleventh Circuit’s recent decision to revisit en banc its Article III standing precedent in single-text message cases. Previously, Florida district courts were generally remanding such cases to state court. Since then, a couple of district courts have remanded cases to state court, but several more have stayed cases pending the Eleventh Circuit’s decisions in two pending appeals, Drazen v. Pinto, No. 21-10199 (11th Cir.) and Muccio v. Global Motivation, Inc., No. 23-10081 (11th Cir.). And the momentum appears to be in favor of staying such cases.
On April 11, Judge Honeywell of the Middle District of Florida granted a defendant’s unopposed motion to stay in Read v. Coty DTC Holdings, LLC, pending the resolution of Drazen and Muccio. No. 8:23-cv-00662-CEH-MRM, 2023 WL 3431820 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 11, 2023). The plaintiff in Read had alleged receipt of a single text message in violation of the FTSA. Eleventh Circuit precedent on Article III standing holds that a plaintiff’s alleged receipt of a single unsolicited text message in violation of the TCPA does not meet the injury requirement for Article III standing. See Salcedo v. Hanna, 936 F.3d 1162, 1172 (11th Cir. 2019). However, the Eleventh Circuit recently vacated a panel decision that had reaffirmed that precedent to re-evaluate its application en banc. See Drazen. Additionally, another appeal before the Eleventh Circuit will address whether Article III injury exists for plaintiffs alleging receipt of multiple texts, not just one, and who allege a violation of the FTSA, not the TCPA. See Muccio. Against this backdrop, the Read court found that the Eleventh Circuit was an outlier with the holdings of other Courts of Appeal that have found standing does exist based on an unsolicited text message. Additionally, the court noted that the Eleventh Circuit’s precedent on this issue appears to have been called into question due to the pending appeals in Drazen and Muccio. As such, the court stayed the case.
The Florida Senate passed HB 761 late yesterday by a 29-10 vote, less than a week after the bill sailed through the Florida House by a 99-14 vote. As we previously reported, passage of this bill paves the way for significant changes to the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (“FTSA,” Fla. Stat. § 501.059). The bill must now be presented to the Florida Governor, who will have up to 15 days following presentment to sign or veto the bill. See Fla. Const., Art. III, § 8(a).
The Middle District of Florida partially rejected a plaintiff’s motion for entry of final default judgment in Brown v. Care Front Funding, No. 8:22-cv-02408-VMC-JSS, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60879 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 6, 2023), report and recommendation adopted, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72933 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 26, 2023).
The plaintiff alleged that, despite being placed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry, she received three unsolicited calls from the defendant for the purpose of persuading her to obtain a business loan. After the defendant failed to respond to her complaint, the plaintiff moved for entry of default and then entry of default judgment. Magistrate Sneed found that the plaintiff had failed to allege that the calls were made for the solicitation of a sale of or extension of credit for any “consumer goods or services” for purposes of finding liability under the FTSA. The statute defines “consumer goods or services” as “real property or tangible or intangible personal property that is normally used for personal, family or household purposes . . . and any services related to such property.” Fla. Stat. § 501.059(1)(c). Magistrate Sneed noted that courts have interpreted similar statutes that provide for “consumer” protections related to goods and services that are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes to exclude goods and services in the business context.
The Southern District of Florida recently remanded a case back to state court because the defendant that removed the case failed to establish that plaintiff suffered an Article III injury. Harris v. Travel Resorts of America, Inc., Civ. No. 2:20-14369-AMC (S.D. Fla. Mar. 31, 2021). Notably, the Court also found that plaintiff should be able to recover its attorneys’ fees in seeking remand given the defendant’s reversing its prior position on whether the Court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the case.
In a decision issued this morning, the Supreme Court settled a long-running debate over the scope of the TCPA’s “automatic telephone dialing system” definition: “whether that definition encompasses equipment that can ‘store’ and dial telephone numbers, even if the device does not ‘us[e] a random or sequential number generator.” Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, 592 U.S. — (2021).
The Court unequivocally held that devices that merely store numbers from a premade list do not qualify as autodialer systems subject to the TCPA. “To qualify as an [ATDS],” explained Justice Sotomayor, writing for Court, “a device must have the capacity either to store a telephone number using a random or sequential generator or to produce a telephone number” using either form of generation. Id. at 1.