Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Communications Law
Health One Medical Center v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
Mohawk, a seller of prescription drugs sent junk faxes to medical providers, advertising the seller’s prices on Bristol-Myers and Pfizer drugs. A recipient filed a putative class-action lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which makes it unlawful “to send . . . an unsolicited advertisement” to a fax machine, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C). Plaintiff first asserted claims only against Mohawk, which never answered the complaint. The district court entered a default judgment. Plaintiff then amended its complaint to assert claims against Bristol and Pfizer, arguing that they had “sent” the unsolicited faxes simply because the faxes mentioned their drugs. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. To be liable, a defendant must “use” a fax machine or other device “to send . . . an unsolicited advertisement” to another fax machine. Bristol and Pfizer neither caused the subject faxes to be conveyed nor dispatched them in any way; only Mohawk did those things. Bristol and Pfizer, therefore, did not “send” the faxes and thus have no liability for them. View "Health One Medical Center v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co." on Justia Law
Healy v. Cox Communications
Cox Cable subscribers cannot access premium cable services unless they also rent a set-top box from Cox. A class of plaintiffs in Oklahoma City sued Cox under antitrust laws, alleging Cox had illegally tied cable services to set-top-box rentals in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits illegal restraints of trade. Though a jury found that Plaintiffs had proved the necessary elements to establish a tying arrangement, the district court disagreed. In granting Cox’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) motion, the court determined that Plaintiffs had offered insufficient evidence for a jury to find that Cox’s tying arrangement "foreclosed a substantial volume of commerce in Oklahoma City to other sellers or potential sellers of set-top boxes in the market for set- top boxes." After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit ultimately agreed with the district court and affirmed. View "Healy v. Cox Communications" on Justia Law
City Select Auto Sales Inc v. BMW Bank of North America Inc
Creditsmarts operates an internet-based business that helps independent car dealers connect customers with lenders. BMW offers direct automotive financing to customers through “up2drive.” In 2012, BMW and Creditsmarts entered into agreements, under which BMW would offer up2drive loans to borrowers at participating dealerships through Creditsmarts. Creditsmarts subsequently used the services of a fax broadcaster to fax about 21,000 advertisements to dealerships. The advertisements identified BMW and stated, “UpToDrive is looking for your BUSINESS!!” A list of recipients was generated from Creditsmarts’s customer database. Neither Creditsmarts nor Westfax retained lists of recipients. Plaintiff received a fax and alleges that it had no preexisting business relationship with Creditsmarts or BMW and that the fax was unsolicited. Plaintiff brought suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, asserting claims under FRCP 23 on behalf of a class defined as: All auto dealerships that were included in the Creditsmarts database on or before December 27, 2012, with fax numbers … who were sent” BMW faxes on specific dates. The Creditsmarts database was not preserved as of December 2012 but was preserved as of February 2014. The Third Circuit vacated the denial of class certification. Precedent does not categorically preclude affidavits from potential class members, combined with the Creditsmarts database, from satisfying the ascertainability standard. Because the database was not produced during discovery, plaintiff was denied the opportunity to demonstrate whether a reliable, administratively feasible method of ascertaining the class exists View "City Select Auto Sales Inc v. BMW Bank of North America Inc" on Justia Law
Sandusky Wellness Center, LLC v. ASD Specialty Healthcare, Inc.
In 2010, Besse, a pharmaceutical distributor, sent a one-page fax advertising the drug Prolia to 53,502 physicians. Only 40,343 of these faxes were successfully transmitted. Sandusky, a chiropractic clinic that employed one of the physicians, claims to have received this “junk fax,” and, three years later, filed a lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. The district court denied Sandusky’s motion for class certification. It held that Sandusky’s proposed class failed to satisfy Rule 23(b)(3) because two individualized issues—class member identity and consent—were central to the lawsuit and thus prevented “questions of law or fact common to class members [from] predominat[ing].” In the absence of fax logs, no classwide means existed by which to identify the 75% of individuals who received the Prolia fax; “each potential class member would have to submit an affidavit certifying receipt of the Prolia fax.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Besse presented actual evidence of consent to the district court, which required the need for individualized inquiries in order to distinguish between solicited and unsolicited Prolia faxes. The court stated that it was unaware of any court that ever mandated certification of a TCPA class where fax logs did not exist. View "Sandusky Wellness Center, LLC v. ASD Specialty Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law
Blow v. Bijora, Inc.
Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), an effective consent to automated calls is one that relates to the same subject matter covered by the challenged messages. Akira, a retailer, engaged Opt for text-message marketing services. Akira gathered 20,000 customers’ cell phone numbers for Opt’s messaging platform. Akira customers could join its “Text Club” by providing their cell phone numbers to Akira representatives inside stores, by texting to an opt-in number, or by completing an “Opt In Card,” stating that, “Information provided to Akira is used solely for providing you with exclusive information or special offers. Akira will never sell your information or use it for any other purpose.” In 2009-2011, Akira sent about 60 text messages advertising store promotions, events, contests, and sales to those customers, including Blow. In a purported class action, seeking $1.8 billion in damages, Blow alleged that Akira violated the TCPA, 47 U.S.C. 227, and the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by using an automatic telephone dialing system to make calls without the recipient’s express consent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Akira. Blow’s attempt to parse her consent to accept some promotional information from Akira while rejecting “mass marketing” texts construed “consent” too narrowly. The court declined to award sanctions for frivolous filings. View "Blow v. Bijora, Inc." on Justia Law
Dannenberg v. State
Plaintiffs filed this class action suit individually and on behalf of employees (and their dependent-beneficiaries) who began working for the State or its political subdivisions before July 1, 2003 and who had accrued or will accrue a right to post-retirement health benefits as a retiree a retiree’s dependent. Plaintiffs alleged that the State, the City and County of Honolulu, and the Counties of Kaua’i, Maui, and Hawai’i impaired Plaintiffs’ accrued retirement health benefits in violation of Haw. Const. art. XVI, 2. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that the State and Counties violated their statutory rights under Haw. Rev. Stat. 87 by not providing retirees and their dependents with dental and medical benefits that were substantially equal to those provided to active workers and their dependents. After a lengthy procedural history, the Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs’ accrued retirement health benefits have been diminished or impaired in violation of article XVI, section 2. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Dannenberg v. State" on Justia Law
Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Stevens & Ricci Inc
Relying on an advertiser’s claim that its fax advertising program complied with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, Stevens & Ricci allowed the advertiser to fax thousands of advertisements to potential customers on its behalf. More than six years later, Hymed filed a class action TCPA lawsuit, which settled with a $2,000,000 judgment against Stevens & Ricci. While that suit was pending, Auto-Owners sought a declaratory judgment, claiming that the terms of the insurance policy it provided Stevens & Ricci did not obligate it to indemnify or defend Stevens & Ricci in the class action. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment, finding that the sending of unsolicited fax advertisements in violation of the TCPA did not fall within the terms of the insurance policy. The “Businessowners Insurance Policy” obligated Auto-Owners to “pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’, ‘property damage’, ‘personal injury’ or ‘advertising injury’ to which this insurance applies.” The “advertising injury” deals only with the publication of private information, View "Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Stevens & Ricci Inc" 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
Holtzman v. Turza
Attorney Turza sent fax advertisements to accountants. In 2013, the Seventh Circuit affirmed that these faxes violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, but reversed a plan to distribute a $4.2 million fund to the class members and donate any remainder to charity. Meanwhile, Turza posted a $4.2 million supersedeas bond. Invoking the common-fund doctrine, the district judge awarded class counsel about $1.4 million. TCPA authorizes an award of up to $500 per improper fax. The court ordered two-thirds of that sent to every class member. If some members fail to cash their checks or cannot be found, there would be a second distribution. The maximum paid out per fax would be $500. If money remains, the residue returns to Turza. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. This is not a common-fund case; suits under TCPA seek recovery for discrete wrongs. If a recipient cannot be located, or spurns the money, counsel are not entitled to be paid for that fax. TCPA is not a fee-shifting statute. Turza is not required to pay the class’s attorneys just because he lost the suit. Distributing more than $500 per fax ($333 to the recipient and $167 to counsel) would either exceed the statutory cap or effectively shift legal fees to Turza. The $4.2 million represents security for payment, so once the debt is satisfied, the surplus can be returned to Turza. View "Holtzman v. Turza" on Justia Law
In re Certified Question (Deacon v. Pandora)
Peter Deacon, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, brought an action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against Pandora Media, Inc., which operated an Internet-based music-streaming program. In relevant part, Deacon claimed that Pandora violation of the Michigan preservation of personal privacy act (PPPA) by publically disclosing personal information concerning his music preferences. The federal district court ruled in favor of defendant, and under MCR 7.305(B), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of Michigan law to the Michigan Supreme Court: "Has Deacon stated a claim against Pandora for violation of the VRPA by adequately alleging that Pandora is [in] the business of 'renting' or 'lending' sound recordings, and that he is a 'customer' of Pandora because he 'rents' or 'borrows' sound recordings from Pandora? " Having heard oral argument and considered the issues involved, the Michigan Supreme Court granted the Ninth Circuit’s request to answer its question. However, the Michigan Court limited the question to whether Deacon could be characterized under the PPPA as a "customer" of Pandora because at the relevant time he was a person who "rent[ed]" or "borrow[ed]" sound recordings from defendant. The Supreme Court concluded that Deacon was not such a "customer." View "In re Certified Question (Deacon v. Pandora)" on Justia Law