Very rarely do I see something in a ruling that makes me stop what I’m doing and pull the docket to see what the underlying briefing actually said.
Well, the ruling in Saggio v. Medicredit, Inc. 4:22-cv-1005, 2023 WL 3203333 (E.D. Mo. May 2, 2023) was just such a rare instance.
This portion of the ruling caught my eye:
Defendant’s statutory construction leads to the absurd inference that Plaintiff injured himself by answering the phone. Given the clear legislative intent of the TCPA, this argument lacks any colorable merit.
Pretty tough to have a federal judge call your argument “absurd” but the phrase “lacks any colorable merit” seems to imply a level of frivolity that may violate Rule 11. So that definitely raised my eyebrows (yes–both of them).
So I pulled the briefing, and the Defendant’s argument wasn’t quite so brazen.
Essentially the Defendant’s point is that a Plaintiff’s harm must be “caused” by a violation of federal law for there to be Article III standing. Defendant argued that the outbound call itself was not illegal when dialed or when the phone rang–which is the event that caused Plaintiff’s distraction and harm–but only became illegal when the prerecorded message actually played.
While this argument might have merit in the context of a voicemail where a live agent was on the line but then left a prerecorded voicemail when a consumer did not pick up, in the context of a message that was always going to be prerecorded it is hard to say that the phone didn’t ring solely for a purpose that would violate the law–and that is the essence of the standing requirement.
Still the argument wasn’t as bad as the Court made it seem–the Defendant never expressly blamed the Plaintiff for causing his on harm by answering the phone.
Maybe the Court was annoyed with the Defendant for citing cases involving pitbulls tho:
That case involved a challenge to a municipal ordinance banning pit bulls where the plaintiff had subsequently moved away and no longer owned dogs. Frost v. Sioux City, Iowa, 920 F.3d 1158 (8th Cir. 2019). In that instance, the threat of future injury from the ban was entirely conjectural. Id. at 1161. Here, by contrast, given the likelihood of repeat violations inherent in the very nature of robocalls, Congress expressly authorized injunctive relief based on a single violation of the TCPA. See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(3)(A). Defendant’s challenge in this respect is unfounded.
Probably find better case law next time…