Cook County Record

Monday, October 21, 2019

'Major changes' in law continue to narrow definition of automated dialers under TCPA, dampen class actions

Lawsuits

By Cook County Record | Dec 18, 2018


CHICAGO – A Chicago federal judge's recent decision to revisit a lawsuit vs Yahoo over a text message the web services provider sent to a user, could further help to narrow an expansive view of so-called "automatic telephone dialing system" embraced years ago by federal regulators, which has helped to enhance the growth of lawsuits under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

In the last week of November, U.S. District Judge Manish Shah of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois reconsidered a 2014 decision denying Yahoo's request for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed the company violated the TCPA when Yahoo's PC2SMS messaging system was used to send her a text message. 

She alleged the system constituted an ATDS, which is prohibited by the TCPA.


Attorney Artin Betpera | Womble Bond Dickinson

In 214, Judge Shah reluctantly denied Yahoo's summary judgment request, saying court precedent meant he was bound to accept the interpretations of the TCPA issued by the Federal Communications Commission in 2003, 2008 and 2012, which would have held the Yahoo system could be an ATDS.

However, in light of the decision in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in ACA Int'l v. FCC, Shah said those interpretations had been set aside, allowing him to reconsider his earlier decision and grant Yahoo's request, ending the case.

Attorney Artin Betpera of Womble Bond Dickinson said the decision marked yet another instance illustrating the "major changes in the law this year starting with ... ACA Int’l v. FCC."

"There’s been some uncertainty around the scope of the ACA Int’l case and whether it really invalidated those prior FCC rulings," Betpera said.  "But this case adds to the growing number of courts that agree those expansive FCC rulings are no longer valid."

Betpera said companies should take note of these rulings. But since the law remains "unsettled, businesses should continue take TCPA compliance very seriously" and "make sure your calls and texts are compliant."

The decision in Chicago in late November is docketed in the Northern District of Illinois as Case No. 1:14-cv-02028 Johnson v Yahoo Inc.

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U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois U.S. Federal Communications Commission Womble Bond Dickinson

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