Justia Communications Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Career Counseling, Inc. v. Amerifactors Financial Group, LLC
In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the plaintiff, Career Counseling, Inc., alleged that the defendant, AmeriFactors Financial Group, LLC, sent an unsolicited advertisement by fax to the plaintiff and thousands of other recipients in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), as amended by the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005.The plaintiff sought to represent a class of nearly 59,000 other persons and entities who were sent the same fax. The district court denied class certification on the grounds that the class was not readily identifiable or ascertainable. It found that the TCPA prohibits unsolicited advertisements sent to stand-alone fax machines, but not those sent to online fax services. Therefore, it was necessary to distinguish between recipients who were using stand-alone fax machines and those using online fax services. The court held that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate this distinction, rendering the proposed class unascertainable.On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, agreeing that the proposed class was not readily identifiable or ascertainable. It agreed with the lower court's interpretation of the TCPA, which it determined based on the statute's plain language, that an online fax service does not qualify as a "telephone facsimile machine" under the TCPA. Therefore, users of online fax services could not be included in the proposed class.Additionally, the court affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment to Career Counseling on its individual TCPA claim against AmeriFactors. It concluded that there was insufficient evidence to dispute AmeriFactors' liability as the "sender" of the fax, rendering AmeriFactors liable for sending the unsolicited fax to Career Counseling. View "Career Counseling, Inc. v. Amerifactors Financial Group, LLC" on Justia Law
DOE V. WEBGROUP CZECH REPUBLIC, A.S.
The plaintiff, a survivor of childhood sex trafficking, filed a class action suit against a group of foreign and domestic corporations, alleging that they violated federal and California laws by distributing videos of her sexual abuse on the internet. The defendants included the owners and operators of two pornography websites based in the Czech Republic. The plaintiff argued that the court had personal jurisdiction over the foreign defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2), which allows for jurisdiction over a foreign defendant if the claim arises under federal law, the defendant is not subject to jurisdiction in any state's courts, and exercising jurisdiction is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws. The district court dismissed the case, ruling that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the foreign defendants.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part the district court's dismissal. The court found that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case that the Czech website operators had purposefully directed their websites at the United States. The court also held that the plaintiff's claims arose from the defendants' forum-related activities, and that the defendants failed to show that the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be unreasonable. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the action against the Czech defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction.The court also vacated the district court's dismissal of nine additional foreign defendants. The district court had dismissed these defendants solely on the grounds that there was no personal jurisdiction over the Czech defendants. The appellate court instructed the district court to address on remand whether personal jurisdiction could be asserted against these additional defendants. View "DOE V. WEBGROUP CZECH REPUBLIC, A.S." on Justia Law
MARK JONES, ET AL V. FORD MOTOR COMPANY
Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their class action, alleging that the Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) made unlawful recordings of their private communications in violation of the Washington Privacy Act (“WPA”). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The panel rejected Plaintiffs’ request for remand to the Washington state court because it was based on the flawed argument that Ford “self-rebutted the assertion of Art. III jurisdiction” when it alleged that plaintiffs failed to plead a statutory injury under the WPA in its motion to dismiss. The injury-in-fact prong of Article III standing and the merits of a WPA claim are separate inquiries. With respect to constitutional injury-in-fact, the complaint’s allegations plausibly articulated an Article III injury because they claimed a violation of a substantive privacy right. Article III standing was thus satisfied, and the district court properly retained jurisdiction. Turning to the merits of the WPA claim, the panel rejected Plaintiffs’ claim that a violation of the WPA itself is an invasion of privacy that constitutes remediable injury. An invasion of privacy, without more, is insufficient to meet the statutory injury requirements of WPA Section 9.73.060. Plaintiffs must allege an injury to “his or her business, his or her person, or his or her reputation.” The court found that Plaintiffs failed to do so here. View "MARK JONES, ET AL V. FORD MOTOR COMPANY" on Justia Law
LUCINE TRIM V. REWARD ZONE USA LLC, ET AL
Plaintiff appealed from the district court’s partial judgment granting a motion to dismiss in favor of Defendant, Reward Zone USA, LLC (Reward Zone), in a putative class action lawsuit brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). In Plaintiff’s second cause of action, which is the subject of this opinion, Plaintiff alleged a violation of the TCPA because she received at least three mass marketing text messages from Reward Zone which utilized “prerecorded voices.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court held the text messages did not use prerecorded voices under the Act because they did not include audible components. The panel relied on the statutory context of the Act and the ordinary meaning of voice, which showed that Congress used the word voice to include only an audible sound, and not a more symbolic definition such as an instrument or medium of expression. The panel addressed Plaintiff’s appeal of the district court’s dismissal of another cause of action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in a simultaneously-filed memorandum disposition. View "LUCINE TRIM V. REWARD ZONE USA LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law
City of Creve Coeur v. DirecTV LLC
DirecTV and Dish Network (“Defendants”) provide video services in part through the Internet. The City of Creve Coeur filed this class action in Missouri state court on behalf of local government authorities, seeking a declaratory judgment that Defendants are liable under the Video Services Providers Act (“VSPA”) and implementing local ordinances, plus injunctive relief, an accounting of unpaid fees, and damages. Defendants removed the action based on diversity jurisdiction and the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). After the state court entered an interlocutory order declaring that VSPA payments are fees, rather than taxes, DirecTV filed a second notice of removal, arguing this order established the required federal jurisdiction. The district court granted Creve Coeur’s motion to remand. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed on different grounds. The court explained that the district court’s remand order plainly stated that the remand was based on comity principles as articulated in Levin, not on “state-tax based comity concerns.” Comity as a basis to remand was raised and fully argued in the first remand proceeding. Federal courts have long precluded two bites at this apple. Second, the Supreme Court in Levin emphatically stated that the century-old comity doctrine is not limited to the state-tax-interference concerns that later led Congress to enact the TIA. Third, the state court’s December 2020 Order addressed, preliminarily, only the VSPA fee-or-tax issue under state law. It did not address the broader considerations comity addresses. The state court order in no way overruled or undermined the basis for the district court’s first remand order. Therefore, DirecTV failed to establish the essential basis for a second removal. View "City of Creve Coeur v. DirecTV LLC" on Justia Law
City of Maple Heights v. Netlix, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that Netflix Inc. and Hulu, LLC (together, Defendants) were not video-service providers under the Fair Competition in Cable Operations Act, Ohio Rev. Code 1332.21 (the Act) and that the Act did not expressly or impliedly give the City of Maple Heights the authority to bring a cause of action such as the one at issue in this case.The City of Maple Heights filed a federal class action and declaratory judgment lawsuit against Netflix and Hulu in federal court asserting that Defendants were in violation of the Act. Defendants moved separately to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that their streaming services did not fall within the Act. The federal court certified two state-law questions for Supreme Court review. The Court answered (1) Netflix and Hulu were not service providers under Ohio law; and (2) the Act did not grant Maple Heights either an express or an implied right to bring an action against Defendants to enforce Ohio's video service provider provisions. View "City of Maple Heights v. Netlix, Inc." on Justia Law
Gorss Motels, Inc. v. Brigadoon Fitness Inc.
Gorss operated a Super 8 Motel as a franchisee of Wyndham. Gorss agreed to furnish the facility in accordance with Wyndham’s standards and to purchase supplies and equipment from approved vendors. Brigadoon sells fitness equipment and is an approved vendor for Wyndham franchisees. Wyndham periodically provided contact information for its franchisees, including fax numbers, to Brigadoon. Gorss also attended trade shows and personally provided contact information to Wyndham-approved suppliers. Gorss received a fax from Brigadoon advertising its fitness equipment. The fax was sent to more than 10,000 recipients. Brigadoon formulated the list of recipients from a variety of sources.Gorss filed a purported class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(c), seeking statutory penalties. The district court declined to certify a class, finding that common issues did not predominate. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Gorss’s argument that the court should have required Brigadoon to show with specific evidence that a significant percentage of the class is subject to the “prior permission” defense. Gorss offered no generalized class-wide manner to resolve the permission question. Brigadoon’s claim of permission was not speculative, vague, or unsupported; it was based on a multitude of contracts, relationships, memberships, and personal contacts. View "Gorss Motels, Inc. v. Brigadoon Fitness Inc." on Justia Law
Hood v. American Auto Care, et al.
Alexander Hood, a Colorado resident, appealed the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of his putative class-action claim against American Auto Care (AAC) in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. AAC, a Florida limited liability company whose sole office was in Florida, sold vehicle service contracts that provided vehicle owners with extended warranties after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. Hood’s complaint alleged AAC violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and invaded Hood’s and the putative class members’ privacy by directing unwanted automated calls to their cell phones without consent. Although he was then residing in Colorado, the calls came from numbers with a Vermont area code. He had previously lived in Vermont, and his cell phone number had a Vermont area code. Hood was able to trace one such call to AAC. Although it determined that Hood had alleged sufficient facts to establish that AAC purposefully directs telemarketing at Colorado, the trial court held that the call to Hood’s Vermont phone number did not arise out of, or relate to, AAC’s calls to Colorado phone numbers. In light of Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, 141 S. Ct. 1017 (2021), the Tenth Circuit determined the trial court's dismissal could not stand. "The argument regarding 'purposeful direction' ... is implicitly rejected by Ford, and the argument regarding 'arise out of or relate to' ... is explicitly rejected. ... We also determine that AAC has not shown a violation of traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." View "Hood v. American Auto Care, et al." on Justia Law
Cordoba v. DIRECTV, LLC
Plaintiff filed a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, alleging that DIRECTV and the company it contracted with to provide telemarketing services, Telecel, failed to maintain the do-not-call list and continued to call individuals who asked not to be contacted.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's certification order, holding that the unnamed members of the putative class who did not ask DIRECTV to stop calling them were not injured by the failure to comply with the regulation. Therefore, their injuries were not fairly traceable to DIRECTV's alleged wrongful conduct, and thus they lacked Article III standing to sue DIRECTV. The court also held that, although the case was justiciable because the named plaintiff had standing, the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class as it is currently defined. In this case, determining whether each class member asked Telecel to stop calling requires an individualized inquiry, and the district court did not consider this problem at all when it determined that issues common to the class predominated over issues individual to each class member. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cordoba v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law
Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. Lagasse, LLC
The lead plaintiffs in consolidated purported class actions received faxed advertisements that allegedly did not comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227 and the Federal Communication Commission’s Solicited Fax Rule. Each district court refused to certify the proposed class, largely on the authority of the D.C. Circuit’s 2017 decision in Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, regarding the validity of the FCC’s 2006 Solicited Fax Rule. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. At a minimum, it is necessary to distinguish between faxes sent with permission of the recipient and those that are truly unsolicited. The question of what suffices for consent is central, and it is likely to vary from recipient to recipient. The district courts were within their rights to conclude that there are enough other problems with class treatment here that a class action is not a superior mechanism for adjudicating these cases. View "Alpha Tech Pet, Inc. v. Lagasse, LLC" on Justia Law