Justia Communications Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
Mey v. DIRECTV, LLC
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying DIRECTV's motion to compel arbitration in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Plaintiff alleged that defendants called her cell phone to advertise DIRECTV products and services even though her telephone number is listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.Because plaintiff signed an acknowledgement expressly agreeing to the arbitration provision of the Wireless Customer Agreement with AT&T, which provision applies to her as an authorized user, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that she did not form an agreement to arbitrate. The court held that plaintiff formed an agreement to arbitrate with DIRECTV where the ordinary meaning of "affiliates" and the contractual context convinced the court that the term includes affiliates acquired after the agreement was signed. Furthermore, in light of the expansive text of the arbitration agreement, the categories of claims it specifically includes, and the parties' instruction to interpret its provisions broadly, the court must conclude that plaintiff's TCPA claims fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mey v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law
Blanks et al. v. TDS Telecommunications LLC
Jason Blanks, Peggy Manley, Kimberly Lee, Nancy Watkins, Randall Smith, Trenton Norton, Earl Kelly, Jennifer Scott, and Alyshia Kilgore (referred to collectively as "the customers") appealed the denial of a motion to compel arbitration and a declaratory judgment entered in an action brought by TDS Telecommunications LLC, and its two affiliates, Peoples Telephone Company, Inc., and Butler Telephone Company, Inc. (referred to collectively as "the Internet providers"). The customers subscribed to Internet service furnished by the Internet providers; their relationship was governed by a written "Terms of Service." The customers alleged that the Internet service they have received was slower than the Internet providers promised them. At the time the customers learned that their Internet service was allegedly deficient, the Terms of Service contained an arbitration clause providing that "any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to [the Terms of Service] shall be resolved by binding arbitration at the request of either party." In the declaratory-judgment action, the trial court ruled that the Internet providers were not required to arbitrate disputes with the customers. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the arbitration clause in the applicable version of the Terms of Service included an agreement between the Internet providers and the customers that an arbitrator was to decide issues of arbitrability, which included the issue whether an updated Terms of Service effectively excluded the customers' disputes from arbitration. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's denial of the customers' motion to compel arbitration and its judgment declaring the updated Terms of Service "valid and enforceable," and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Blanks et al. v. TDS Telecommunications LLC" on Justia Law
Breda v. Cellco Partnership
In this lawsuit alleging that Verizon Wireless violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Verizon's motion to compel arbitration but reversed the court's grant of summary judgment in Verizon's favor, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff's TCPA claims failed as a matter of law because her telephone number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service.In her complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Verizon's unauthorized, automated calls to her cellular telephone violated the TCPA. The district court concluded that Plaintiff's telephone number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service within the meaning of the relevant provision of the TCPA and granted summary judgment to Verizon. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the district court correctly denied Verizon's motion to compel arbitration; but (2) in concluding that Plaintiff's number was not assigned to a cellular telephone service the district court failed to consider the hybrid nature of Plaintiff's telephone service with Republic Wireless and erred in treating other facts as dispositive. View "Breda v. Cellco Partnership" on Justia Law
A.D. v. Credit One Bank, N.A.
Credit One repeatedly called A.D.’s (a minor) cell phone about payments owed on her mother’s account. A.D., by and through her mother, Serrano, brought a putative class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A), seeking compensation for telephone calls placed by Credit One to her telephone number in an effort to collect a debt that she did not owe. During discovery, Credit One realized that its caller ID capture system had added A.D.’s phone number to its database when Serrano used A.D.’s phone to access her account. A.D. had apparently used the card, once, at her mother’s request, when she was 14 years old, in 2014. Credit One moved to compel arbitration and to defeat A.D.’s motion for class certification based on a cardholder agreement between Credit One and Serrano. The district court granted the motion to compel arbitration but certified for interlocutory appeal the question whether A.D. is bound by the cardholder agreement. The Seventh Circuit reversed the order compelling arbitration. A.D. is not bound by the terms of the cardholder agreement to arbitrate and has not directly benefited from the cardholder agreement such that equitable principles require the application of the arbitration clause against her. View "A.D. v. Credit One Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Alwert v. Cox Enterprises
Plaintiffs Andrew Alwert and Stanley Feldman brought putative class actions against Cox Communications, Inc. (Cox) claiming that Cox violated antitrust law by tying its premium cable service to rental of a set-top box. The district court granted Cox’s motions to compel arbitration, then certified the orders compelling arbitration for interlocutory appeal. The Tenth Circuit granted Plaintiffs permission to appeal. They argued that the arbitration order was improper because: (1) the dispute was not within the scope of the arbitration agreement; (2) Cox waived its right to invoke arbitration; and (3) Cox’s promise to arbitrate was illusory, so the arbitration agreement was unenforceable. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitration clause in Plaintiffs’ subscriber agreements with Cox covered the underlying litigation and that Cox did not waive its right to arbitration. The Court did not resolve Plaintiffs’ argument that Cox’s promises were illusory because the argument amounted to a challenge to the contract as a whole, which was a question to be decided in arbitration. View "Alwert v. Cox Enterprises" on Justia Law
Dr. Robert L. Meinders, D.C. v. UnitedHealthcare, Inc.
Dr. Meinders sued United Healthcare in Illinois state court, alleging that in 2013, United sent him and a number of similarly-situated persons an unsolicited “junk fax” advertising United’s services, which violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, and amounted to common law conversion. United removed the case to federal court and successfully moved to dismiss for improper venue under Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(3), claiming that Meinders had entered into a “Provider Agreement” with a United-owned entity, ACN, in 2006, which bound him to arbitrate his “junk fax” claims in Minnesota. Meinders unsuccessfully moved to strike or, in the alternative, for leave to file a sur-reply addressing the assumption theory and declaration. The Seventh Circuit reversed because the district court premised its dismissal order on law and facts to which Meinders did not have a full and fair opportunity to respond. View "Dr. Robert L. Meinders, D.C. v. UnitedHealthcare, Inc." on Justia Law
Andermann v. Sprint Spectrum, L.P.
The Andermanns obtained mobile phone service from U.S. Cellular in 2000. Their renewable two-year contract was renewed for the last time in 2012. It included an arbitration clause that “survives the termination of this service agreement” and provided that “U.S. Cellular may assign this Agreement … without notice.” In 2013 U.S. Cellular sold the Andermanns’ contract to Sprint, without notice to the Andermanns. Months later Sprint sent Andermanns a letter, informing them of the sale and that their mobile service would be terminated on January 31, 2014 because Andermanns’ phones were not compatible with Sprint’s network. In December Sprint phoned to remind them that their service was about to expire, and added that Sprint had “a great set of offers and devices available to fit [their] needs.” Sprint made six such calls. Andermanns answered none, but filed a purported class action, contending that the unsolicited advertisements contained in the calls violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. Sprint requested arbitration, 9 U.S.C. 4. The district court denied Sprint’s motion. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding connection to the contract, asking: What would Sprint have done if forbidden to call the customers whom it had inherited from U.S. Cellular and must now terminate because of technical incompatibility? View "Andermann v. Sprint Spectrum, L.P." on Justia Law
Alfonso v. Gulf Publishing Co., Inc.
Two appeals are were consolidated from chancery-court cases. In the first case, Diamondhead Country Club and Property Owners Association, Inc. sued Thomas R. Alfonso, III, and Anne Scafidi Cordova,1 d/b/a Bay Jourdan Publishing Co. (BJP) for breach of a contract to publish "The Diamondhead News." In 1997, the chancery court entered a preliminary injunction order preventing BJP from publishing "The Diamondhead News," selling advertising, collecting or disposing of advertising revenues derived from the publication the paper, and interfering with the printing, publication, or distribution of "The Diamondhead News." The chancery court also found that an arbitration clause in the publishing contract was inapplicable to the lawsuit. The chancery court denied BJP’s two subsequent motions to compel arbitration of the breach-of-contract dispute. BJP appealed the chancery court’s latest denial of arbitration. In the second case, BJP sued Diamondhead and Gulf Publishing Co., Inc., d/b/a "The Sun Herald" (“Gulf Publishing”), for intentional interference with the publishing contract. Gulf Publishing filed a motion for summary judgment. The court granted summary judgment to Gulf Publishing and directed the entry of a final judgment as to Gulf Publishing pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). BJP appealed the grant of summary judgment. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s order denying BJP’s third motion to compel arbitration because the issue was ruled upon previously, and no appeal was taken. Finding genuine issues of material fact for trial, the Court reversed the chancery court’s order granting summary judgment to Diamondhead and Gulf Publishing, and remanded the second case for further proceedings. View "Alfonso v. Gulf Publishing Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Porter v. AT&T Mobility, LLC
Defendant AT&T Mobility, LLC appealed a trial court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration. AT&T claimed the trial court erred by ruling that AT&T had not been assigned Plaintiff Pike Porter’s cell phone contract before sending him unsolicited text messages and erred in failing to hold an evidentiary hearing on this issue. AT&T also argued that even if Plaintiff's claims arose before AT&T purchased his contract, the trial court erred as a matter of law in holding that AT&T cannot enforce the binding arbitration agreement in Plaintiff's original cell phone contract. The court also noted that the arbitration agreement could not bind Plaintiff "with regard to events between him and AT&T that took place at a time when his only contract was with Unicel, not AT&T." AT&T highlighted four pieces of evidence it submitted along with its motion to amend and reconsider as "undisputed" proof that it purchased Plaintiff's contract in December 2008. Upon review of AT&T's evidence, the Supreme Court concluded the document did not establish that Plaintiff's contract was one of the 100,000 to 150,000 contracts sold, nor did it suggest that "certain Unicel assets" included all of the wireless contracts Unicel held in Vermont. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's decision in favor of Plaintiff.View "Porter v. AT&T Mobility, LLC" on Justia Law
Coneff, et al. v. AT&T Corp, et al.
Plaintiffs, current and former customers of AT&T, filed a class action against AT&T, alleging unjust enrichment and and breach of contract. AT&T responded by seeking to enforce an arbitration agreement contained in its contracts with plaintiffs. The district court refused to enforce the arbitration agreement on state-law unconscionability grounds, relying primarily on the agreement's class-action waiver provision. The court reversed the district court's substantive unconscionability ruling where the FAA preempted the Washington state law invalidating the class-action waiver. The court remanded for further proceedings related to plaintiffs' procedural unconscionability claims for the district court to apply Washington choice-of-law rules. View "Coneff, et al. v. AT&T Corp, et al." on Justia Law