State consumer-protection statutes frequently authorize claims for class-wide injunctive relief; notably, California courts have fashioned a similar remedy allowing for injunctions on behalf of the “general public.” Plaintiffs bringing class actions alleging that a company’s advertising is deceptive or misleading frequently tack on to their damages claims a request to enjoin the disputed marketing—sometimes to halt allegedly false advertising and sometimes to require the company to disclose some allegedly concealed fact about its product or service. These types of injunction claims are especially common in cases against food and beverage companies. But it is difficult to square these injunction claims with Article III standing requirements, and companies defending against class actions in federal court should be aware of the potential for seeking dismissal of requests for injunctive relief on standing grounds.
Win or lose, class actions that make it past the pleadings threaten businesses with enormous defense costs, especially the costs associated with class-wide discovery. As we’ve discussed before on this blog, one powerful tool for defendants to avoid these costs is to file an early motion to strike class allegations, taking a shot at nipping the class action in the bud when it is apparent from the pleadings that a class cannot be certified.
We were therefore pleased to see the Fifth Circuit recently join the growing ranks of courts that have endorsed pre-discovery motions to strike class allegations. In Elson v. Black, 56 F.4th 1002 (5th Cir. 2023), the court affirmed the district court’s order striking plaintiffs’ class allegations in their entirety. (The court also affirmed in large part the dismissal of the individual plaintiffs’ claims.) …
Motions to dismiss federal-court actions based on a lack of Article III standing are succeeding more frequently—thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez. That ruling reaffirmed and clarified that every plaintiff must plausibly allege a “concrete injury” that is “‘real,’ and not ‘abstract,’” even when the plaintiff claims a violation of federal statutory rights.
This past June, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) issued TransUnion and Concrete Harm: One Year Later, a 68-page report that we authored for ILR. It explains the multiple arguments made available, or strengthened, by…Continue Reading The Courts of Appeals’ Rigorous Application of TransUnion’s Standing Analysis Continues To Provide Defendants With Strong Arguments For Defeating Non-Injury Class Actions
It’s pretty common in consumer class actions in California for the plaintiffs to assert causes of action seeking damages as well other causes of action for various equitable remedies (such as restitution). Sometimes, plaintiffs abandon the damages claims in order to get a bench trial on the equitable claims or in an effort to improve their chances of certifying a class. In Sonner v. Premier Nutrition, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of consumer-protection claims seeking solely equitable relief because legal damages were available in the same amount for the same alleged harm.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit holds that California consumers who abandon damages claims can’t get restitution
One of the key issues in any case under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is whether the plaintiff consented to be called or texted. If the recipient has provided “prior express consent,” the TCPA permits calls or texts to either (i) wireless numbers using autodialers or artificial or prerecorded voices; or (ii) residential telephones using artificial or prerecorded voices. 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) (cellular telephones); id. § 227(b)(1)(B) (residential telephones). Courts currently are divided on the impact of contracts specifying that consumers agree in advance to receive such calls or texts.
Continue Reading Courts in Telephone Consumer Protection Act cases Are divided on plaintiffs’ ability to revoke their contractual consent to be called
One of the most hotly-contested issues in litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is what equipment counts as an “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS) triggering the TCPA’s restrictions. In 2018, the D.C. Circuit threw out the FCC’s interpretation of the statutory definition of an ATDS—which was so broad as to encompass smartphones—as arbitrary and capricious. (See our report on the D.C. Circuit’s ACA International v. FCC decision.) In the wake of that decision—while parties await the FCC’s new rule—courts around the country have been weighing in how best to interpret the statutory text.
The issue is now the subject of a deep circuit split. In recent months, both the Seventh Circuit in Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc. and the Eleventh Circuit in Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Co. (pdf) have concluded that equipment that dials from a pre-selected list of phone numbers does not qualify as an ATDS. (Disclosure: Mayer Brown represented AT&T in Gadelhak; Archis was on the briefs in the Seventh Circuit.) The Seventh and Eleventh Circuits thus rejected the Ninth Circuit’s more expansive interpretation of ATDS in Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC. (See our report on Marks.) The Second Circuit, in contrast, recently followed the Marks interpretation in Duran v. La Boom Disco.
In light of this growing divide, lawyers on both sides of the “v.” are waiting for the Supreme Court to step in.…
The Supreme Court has resolved many important questions about personal jurisdiction. But somewhat surprisingly, it has not decided a fundamental question that arises in class actions – to establish specific personal jurisdiction (meaning case-linked personal jurisdiction) over a defendant, must the plaintiff establish that the defendant has sufficient connections to the forum with respect to all plaintiffs’ claims, or only the named plaintiffs’ claims? Not only has the Supreme Court not decided this question, but no court of appeals has yet decided it. The D.C. Circuit will likely be the first, in a case now pending – Molock v. Whole …
Continue Reading What Must Plaintiffs Show To Establish Specific Personal Jurisdiction Over Corporations in Class Actions?
The key question in many Telephone Consumer Protection Act lawsuits is whether the equipment used to call the plaintiff constitutes an autodialer—that is, an “automatic telephone dialing system” or ATDS—within the meaning of the statute. TCPA practitioners have been awaiting the FCC’s guidance regarding the definition of an autodialer. Last spring, the D.C. Circuit set aside the FCC’s expansive definition of that term as arbitrary and capricious. (See our report on the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in ACA International.) Since then, the FCC has been working on its new definition.
The Ninth Circuit apparently couldn’t wait. In Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC (pdf), a Ninth Circuit panel held that an ATDS is any “device that stores telephone numbers to be called,” “whether or not the numbers were not generated by a random or sequential number generator.”…
Last Friday, a panel of the D.C. Circuit issued its decision in ACA International v. FCC (pdf). The decision, which arrived nearly 17 months after the oral argument, struck down key elements of the FCC’s controversial 2015 Declaratory Ruling and Order interpreting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Here are the key takeaways from the decision:
- The court held that the FCC’s broad definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS), which threatened to include all smartphones, is arbitrary and capricious, and required the FCC to reconsider its definition.
- The court overturned the FCC’s conclusion that a caller could be subjected to liability for calls placed or text messages sent to a phone number that had been reassigned after a “safe harbor” of a single errant call or text. Because the “safe harbor” ruling was arbitrary and capricious, the court concluded that the FCC was required to reexamine whether a caller should be liable for any calls or texts to reassigned numbers.
- The panel sustained the FCC’s rule authorizing consumers to retract their consent to receive autodialed calls or text messages through “any reasonable means.” But the panel decision notes that the FCC’s rule doesn’t speak to situations where parties have contractually agreed to a specific method of revocation.
Unless the FCC seeks further appellate review (which seems unlikely), the agency will be reconsidering the autodialer and reassigned-number issues. Notably, the composition of the FCC has changed since the 2015 order; the chairman of the FCC is Commissioner Ajit Pai, who dissented from the 2015 ruling.
We summarize the decision in detail below. In the meantime, we expect businesses facing TCPA litigation to take at least three possible approaches.
First, the D.C. Circuit’s decision reopens a number of questions that plaintiffs have argued were resolved by the FCC’s 2015 ruling, and parties will seek to litigate those issues.
Second, the FCC will have something new to say on each of the issues remanded to it by the D.C. Circuit, and businesses and trade associations will doubtless want to participate in that regulatory discussion—especially given their extensive experience on the receiving end of TCPA lawsuits.
Third, and relatedly, a number of courts will surely find it more efficient to wait for the FCC’s pronouncements on these issues before allowing TCPA litigation to proceed.…
As we have noted before, the tolling rule created by the Supreme Court in the American Pipe case–which tolls the statute of limitations for absent class members when a class action is filed–generates vigorous disputes over when stale or successive claims will be allowed. The Seventh Circuit recently considered one such dispute in Collins v. Village of Palatine, holding that the statute of limitations is not tolled during the pendency of an ultimately successful appeal from the dismissal of a putative class action that had not been certified.
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit enforces important limit on class action tolling