As a well-known fact and sad reality in the TCPAWorld, the outcome of a TCPA action depends largely on where the suit is taking place. By now, the TCPAWorld residents are so used to see various “creative” arguments and claims by plaintiffs, just to get their case filed in a favorable forum.
Well, I am not saying forum shopping is absolutely bad and should be forbidden. I in fact acknowledge plaintiffs’ freedom to shop for a forum. However, there is a limit. Fortunately, many courts recognize the limit and simply do not tolerate forum shopping that has gone too far and too evil. And it is exactly what happened here in Garcia v. Us, Case No. 2:19-cv-12750, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91870 (E.D. Mich. May 26, 2020).
The plaintiff Garcia, a Florida resident, initially filed the case in the Southern District of Florida, alleging violation of the TCPA by the defendant based on one single prerecorded message to plaintiff’s cellphone. See Garcia v. FCA, No. 1:18-cv-23223-FAM (S.D. Fla. Aug. 8, 2018).
The Florida District Court stayed the case pending the outcome of Salcedo v. Hanna, 936 F.3d 1162 (11th Cir. 2019), which resulted in the Eleventh Circuit’s landmark decision that a single text message sent to a plaintiff’s cellphone in violation of the TCPA does not “meet the injury-in-fact requirement of the Article III.” (Id. at 1172.) (A full analysis of the Salcedo decision by the Archduke of the Realm can be found here.)
Unsurprisingly, immediately following the Salcedo opinion, Garcia voluntarily dismissed the case. Nevertheless, just 10 days later, the defendant found itself in court again with the same plaintiff and the same complaint, only this time, in the Eastern District of Michigan.
Well, for Garcia, surely the Michigan Court would be a more favorable forum, where an invasion of privacy within the context of the TCPA constitutes a concrete harm that meets the Article III’s injury-in-fact requirements. But an identical complaint in 10 days? Really?
The defendant field motion to transfer to Southern District of Florida, where Garcia dismissed the prior case after the unfavorable decision. Upon analysis and in the interest of justice, the Michigan Court determined that all factors weighed in favor of transfer and thus granted the motion.
As far as we know, forum shopping is a long-time practice that has actually been encouraged by the federal jurisdiction doctrines. Regardless, this system is based on principles of checks and balances, and everything has its pay-off.