It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! At last, I no longer need to field the question of “When, oh when, is the D.C. Circuit going to rule on the ACA Int’l appeal of the FCC’s TCPA Omnibus ruling from 2015?” Now we know the answer: right in the middle of March Madness, of course. Forced, as I am, to look up from the basketball games, I now must face the biggest TCPA questions of all: What is the current state of the law respecting predictive dialers? Can we use contractual revocation provisions to full effect? Who is the called party? Is the TCPA constitutional? This is my definitive take on these and other TCPA issues arising from the big D.C. Circuit ruling of ACA Int’l v FCC, No. 15-1211, Doc. No. 1722606 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 16, 2018).
Author: Eric Troutman
District Court Overrules Magistrate’s Order Compelling Prior Complaint Information and Related Data in TCPA Class Action
Quicken Loans scored a victory earlier this week when Judge Steven D. Merryday sustained its objection to a magistrate judge’s order compelling production of every shred of documentation in any form about every do-not-call request that Quicken received. See Nece v. Quicken Loans, Inc., No. 8:16-cv-2605-T-23CPT, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31346 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 27, 2018).
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal overruled the district court’s dismissal of a TCPA case for lack of Article III standing yesterday in Elisa Romero v. Department Stores National Bank, No. 16-56265, 2018 WL 1079728 (9th Cir. Feb. 28, 2017). The district court ruling in Romero was an oft-cited and oft-criticized opinion that held, in essence, that the harm caused by phone calls must be attributable to the use of an ATDS to give rise to Article III standing. It also suggested that debt collection phone calls don’t really cause harm at all.
Church Provides No Sanctuary: Sixth Circuit’s FDCPA Decision May Breathe New Life into TCPA Spokeo Arguments
A number of Circuit Courts of Appeal have addressed Spokeo challenges to consumer protection statutes in the 646 days (and counting) since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins in 2016. Most of those decisions have given the issue of standing short shrift, leapt to conclusions or—perhaps worst of all—shown a deep and unrelenting deference to Congressional legislative power in assessing Article III limits. The result has been languid opinions and squishy legal doctrine in the arena of standing, where only precision and intellectual rigor ought to prevail. Hagy v. Demers & Adams, No. 17-3696, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 3710 (6th Cir. Feb. 16, 2018) marks a stark departure from its soft-thinking predecessors, and represents the first intellectual tour-de-force of the post-Spokeo era.
It has been a fairly quiet start to 2018 in TCPAland, but February has ushered in a series of cases worth talking about. The first is McMillion v. Rash Curtis & Assocs., No. 16-cv-03396-YGR, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17784 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 2, 2018). You may recall that back in September 2017, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers certified a number of skip trace classes in this case. Well, her latest ruling in McMillion is a veritable grab bag of TCPA wonders.
Court Finds Pre-Checked Disclosure Acceptance Box Still “Clickwrap”; Compels Arbitration of TCPA Case
Dorsey’s TCPA team is already renowned for obtaining first-in-the-nation results. Adding to that pile, Dorsey aided GoSmith, Inc. this week in obtaining a ruling compelling arbitration under facts that have long escaped direct judicial review.
Silver Lining Playbook: Ninth Circuit Reverses Retroactive Application of TCPA Amendment Limiting Liability for Calls Made to Collect on Government-Backed Debt
In 2015, Congress enacted an amendment to the TCPA that exempted calls made in an effort to collect upon federally-backed debt. The amendment seemed straightforward enough. By adding the word “except” to the statute, Congress clarified that the TCPA applies except where it doesn’t. And it doesn’t apply to calls regarding federally-backed debt. The end. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had a different take, however. In Silver v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s opinion applying the amendment retroactively, reasoning: “This case involves a statutory personal injury claim that had accrued prior to the date Congress enacted the TCPA amendment at issue. Ninth Circuit law is clear that retroactively extinguishing a personal claim that has already accrued implicates the strong presumption against retroactivity…”
When a Defendant submits 89 call recordings demonstrating that the customer never once asked for calls to stop or suggested that the calls were unwanted, you’d think that would be enough to earn a summary judgment. Not so, says Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
Court Finds Text Message Offering Link to Dinner “Specials” Was Not Telemarketing Because the Customer Already Had a Dinner Reservation
Imagine sitting at home and receiving a text message from a restaurant inviting you to view their nightly dinner specials. That’s pretty clearly telemarketing, right? Now, imagine that you first called the restaurant to make a dinner reservation for that evening and also provided your cell phone number. The restaurant then sends you the exact same text message. What result? In a new decision from the Eastern District of California, Judge John A. Mendez held that such text messages are not telemarketing and are expressly permitted by the diner when the diner provides his or her phone number to the restaurant in connection with the dinner reservation.
Court Bends Every Procedural Rule to Grant Dismissal to Kohl’s in “Opt-Out Evader” TCPA Text Suit –Blesses Contractual Revocation Clause
One of the most annoying inhabitants of TCPA land is the Opt-Out Evader. This fellow or lady tries to set up TCPA lawsuits by texting phrases s/he knows will not be recognized by text service providers. Rather than simply texting “STOP,” the Opt-Out Evader texts, “It would be great if you would no longer text me. Thanks.” And instead of QUIT, s/he might say, “These text messages are really quite excessive so please cut it out.” It is all a scam, of course. Judge Brian Martinontti of the District of New Jersey saw this tactic a mile away and dealt a steely hand of rough justice this week to an Opt-Out Evader in Viggiano v. Kohl’s Dep’t Stores, Inc.
Judge Bencivengo Refuses to Change Her Stripes—District Court Doubles Down on Romero and Again Dismisses TCPA Claim for Lack of Article III Standing
She may be the only judge in the country still actively dismissing TCPA claims for lack of Article III standing following Spokeo, but Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo demonstrated on Thursday in Selby v. Ocwen Loan Servicing that she is not going to change her views on the subject anytime soon.
New York District Court Applies Reyes to Squash TCPA Suit Based Upon Consent Terms Built into Sallie Mae TCPA Class Action Settlement Agreement
In Rodriguez v. Student Assistance Corp.—the first published decision directly following the Second Circuit’s ruling in Reyes v. Lincoln Automotive Financial Services—an E.D.N.Y. judge granted summary judgment in favor of Navient Solutions in a TCPA case, disregarding allegations that the Plaintiff had “repeatedly” asked for automated calls to her cell phone to stop. The Court found that the revocation efforts were absolutely meaningless because the Plaintiff was a member of the Sallie Mae settlement and, by failing to opt out or otherwise submit a written revocation form, was bound to an eternity of debt collection calls from Sallie Mae and its corporate successors by virtue of the settlement agreement’s “class consent” clause.
This year’s TCPA filings are downright ghoulish, although slightly below last year’s count YTD. If that isn’t enough to make you scream, consider that TCPA class actions are still being filed at quadruple the rate seen before the FCC’s 2015 TCPA Omnibus ruling. But the really horrifying statistic this year is the .071 batting average that defendants have mustered on motions to stay TCPA cases pending the outcome of the ACA, Int’l appeal since August of this year.