District Court Declines to Exercise Supplemental Jurisdiction and Dismisses State Law Claims

On November 7, 2016, a Southern District of Florida court sua sponte declined to exercise its supplemental authority and dismissed a plaintiff’s state law claims in a TCPA action. In Travis v. Residential Credit Solutions, Inc., the plaintiff alleges that defendant placed hundreds of calls to his cellular phone using an ATDS in an effort to collect a debt. From these allegations, the plaintiff filed an individual complaint consisting of three claims: two claims asserting violations of the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”) and one claim asserting a violation of the TCPA.

In dismissing the state law FCCPA claims, the court sua sponte examined whether it had jurisdiction over each of the plaintiff’s claims. The court acknowledged it had original jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s TCPA claim and also determined that it had the authority to exercise supplemental authority over the state law claims, because the FCCPA claims were so related to the TCPA claim that each claim formed part of the same case or controversy. The court declined, however, to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over the FCCPA claims relying on 28 U.S. § 1367(c), which permits district courts to decline exercising supplemental jurisdiction over a claim if “the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,” or “the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction.” The court did not offer an analysis as to why the FCCPA claims satisfied these two factors, but instead acknowledged its decision, while consistent with the Constitution, went against the modern trend of expanding federal court jurisdiction:

The Court recognizes that current trends in the law favor expanded federal court jurisdiction. The Court is mindful, however, that Article III of the Constitution of the United States very clearly prescribes the scope of such jurisdiction. While those who advocate a more liberal interpretation of Article III, as well as a complete disregard of the boundaries of federal jurisdiction originally defined by the founding fathers, may disagree with the limited view of federal jurisdiction expressed by this Court and by the cases cited within this Final Order of Dismissal, the Court’s decision herein is entirely faithful to the Constitution and to the intent of the founding fathers.

Parties often assume that federal courts will automatically exercise their supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims tied to a TCPA action, but this decision demonstrates that this is not always automatic. When asserting or defending TCPA actions with state law claims, parties should consider whether those claims raise novel or complex issues of state law or predominate over the TCPA claim, because it appears courts are considering these questions on their own.

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