ANSELL GRIMM & AARON, PC recently secured the dismissal, with prejudice, of a federal class action complaint alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 47 U.S.C. § 227 et seq. (“TCPA”), in accord with recent United States Supreme Court precedent embodied in the seminal case of Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016). This marked a significant victory for our client in one of the first cases in the nation to apply Spokeo to dismiss a putative class action for lack of standing.
Specifically, Plaintiff in Susinno v. Work Out World, No. 3:15-civ-05881(PGS)(TJB), alleged that our client made a single, unanswered, auto-dialed call which went to voicemail. Plaintiff further alleged that the call violated the TCPA because it was made without her express, written consent. In granting our motion to dismiss, the Court primarily relied on the Supreme Court’s Spokeo decision.
In Spokeo, the plaintiff alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act whereby defendant Spokeo allegedly disseminated mistaken personal information about him. The Court found that while there may have been procedural violations of the statute, it was unclear whether the plaintiff suffered an “injury in fact” — requiring both “particularized” harm specific to him and a “concrete” injury that actually exists. Specifically, the Court found that while the lower court considered the particularized requirement, it failed to consider concreteness. At its core, the ruling considered whether bare, procedural violations of a statute alone “entail a degree of risk sufficient to meet the concreteness requirement” establishing an actual injury.
Applying the Spokeo Court’s reasoning, The Honorable Peter G. Sheridan held that the purpose of the TCPA was to prevent repeated, annoying, and harassing calls to consumers. The Court concluded that a single, unanswered voicemail did not satisfy this standard. The Court further held that in the absence of any annoyance or related harm to Plaintiff resulting from the single call, she did not suffer a “concrete” injury sufficient to satisfy the elements of an “injury in fact” foreclosing her standing to assert the claims. As a result, dismissal was warranted.
Plaintiffs class action attorneys file TCPA complaints because the statute provides for damages of $500 per call ($1,500 for willful violations) plus attorneys’ fees and costs. Since the TCPA was amended, effective October 16, 2013, making it more onerous for businesses, class action litigation based on the statute increased more than 1000% nationwide.
ANSELL GRIMM & AARON, PC is aware that many of our clients rely on various forms of communication to connect with consumers toward generating business. Services providing auto-dialed, “robo-calls” can contact thousands of consumers in a single day. However, the risks of dong so are manifold as it is critical that business carefully adhere to the provisions of the TCPA to avoid exposure to significant statutory liability. Oftentimes, this simply may be achieved by including particular contractual language.