Blockbuster Video may be extinct, but an obscure law designed to protect the privacy of video-tape renters is very much alive—the Video Privacy Protection Act (“VPPA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2710, et seq. Enacted in 1988 after The Washington Post published a profile of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video-rental history, VPPA prohibits any “video tape service provider” from knowingly disclosing a consumer’s personally identifiable information (“PII”) to a third party without the consumer’s express consent. The VPPA entitles prevailing plaintiffs to liquidated damages of $2,500 per violation.
David Poell is a partner in the Business Trial Practice Group in the firm’s Chicago office, particularly focusing on the areas of consumer privacy and class action litigation.
Continuing the trend of recognizing Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) as a muscular privacy-protective statute, the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District has ruled that the most common statutory violations of BIPA are subject to a five-year statute of limitations. BIPA imposes several duties on companies that collect, store or use biometric data—e.g., fingerprints, facial geometry scans—from Illinois residents. Prevailing plaintiffs may recover liquidated damages ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for each BIPA violation (plus attorneys’ fees), and these provisions incentivize plaintiffs’ lawyers to bring BIPA claims as class actions.
Continue Reading Illinois Appellate Court Affirms 5-Year Statute of Limitations Period for Certain BIPA Claims
In a resounding victory for public-private partnerships, the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Cunningham v. Lester, et al., No. 20-1086, — F.3d —- (4th Cir. Mar. 4, 2021) has affirmed federal employees’ immunity from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) when acting in furtherance of a government mandate. The TCPA imposes strict statutory penalties for unsolicited robocalls ranging from $500 to $1,500 per violation. But the Supreme Court has held the TCPA does not contain a waiver of sovereign immunity. See Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 577 U.S. 153, 166 (2016). The question presented in Cunningham was whether a plaintiff can avoid the TCPA’s sovereign-immunity shield by suing federal employees for damages in their individual capacities. The Fourth Circuit ruled that a plaintiff can do no such thing.
Continue Reading Strengthening the TCPA’s Sovereign Immunity Shield—Fourth Circuit Rules Federal Employees Are Not Liable for Government-Mandated Robocalls
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) generally prohibits automated calls, including text messages, to cell phones without sufficient prior express consent, and imposes a statutory penalty of $500 to $1,500 per call/text in violation. Calls that serve an “emergency purpose” are completely exempt from the TCPA. The FCC’s rules define “emergency purpose” to mean “calls made necessary in any situation affecting the health and safety of consumers.” See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(f)(4).
Continue Reading FCC Declares Certain Calls/Texts Regarding COVID-19 Are Exempt From The TCPA
The Seventh Circuit has recently joined the Second, Third, Sixth and Eleventh Circuits in adopting a narrow interpretation of Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), one that excludes equipment that dials numbers from a customer database. See Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc., No. 19-1738, — F.3d —-, 2020 WL 808270 (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2020); see also Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Co., 948 F.3d 1301 (11th Cir. Jan. 27, 2020); Gary v. Trueblue, Inc., 786 F. App’x 555 (6th Cir. Sept. 5, 2019); King v. Time Warner Cable, 894 F.3d 473 (2d Cir. 2018); Dominguez v. Yahoo, Inc., 894 F.3d 116 (3d Cir. 2018).
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Adopts Narrow Definition of Autodialer Under The TCPA
At the end of the Supreme Court’s most recent term, the Court released its long-awaited ruling in PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc., 139 S. Ct. 2051 (June 20, 2019)—a case that could have carried far-reaching ramifications for Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) litigation nationwide. The Supreme Court granted review to consider whether the Administrative Orders Review Act (also known as the Hobbs Act), 28 U.S.C. § 2342(1), requires district courts to accept the FCC’s legal interpretation of the statutory term “unsolicited advertisement” under the TCPA.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Punts On Whether FCC’s Interpretation of the TCPA Binds Federal Courts
A recent decision by the Eleventh Circuit will make it more difficult for plaintiffs to establish standing to sue under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). In Salcedo v. Hanna, et al., Case No. 17-14077, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 25967 (11th Cir. Aug. 28, 2019), the Eleventh Circuit ruled that a single text message did not cause sufficient harm to sue in federal court. As a result, “single text message” TCPA cases may be a thing of the past, at least in the federal courts across the three States in the Eleventh Circuit (Florida, Georgia, and Alabama). However, given conflict with a ruling by the Ninth Circuit, the issue may now be ripe for decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Continue Reading One “Chirp, Buzz, Or Blink” Is Not Enough To Sue Under The TCPA
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided to review a case that potentially carries far reaching ramifications for litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), which places restrictions on phone and fax solicitations and imposes serious penalties for violations. See 47 U.S.C. § 227, et seq. By granting certiorari in PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc., No. 17-1705, the Court is set to resolve the question whether the Hobbs Act requires district courts to accept the FCC’s interpretation of the TCPA’s key statutory term “advertisement.”…
Continue Reading Supreme Court Poised To Alter TCPA Landscape With Review Of Key Term “Advertisement”
Class action plaintiffs’ attorneys may argue that a recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit expands the scope of liability under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) to include calls or text messages sent on all modern telephone equipment, including personal smartphones. Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC, 904 F.3d 1041 (9th Cir. Sept. 20, 2018).
Continue Reading Rikki, Don’t Autodial That Number! – Ninth Circuit Doesn’t Want You To Call Nobody Else (in violation of the TCPA)
1. Have the GOP’s Hopes for Enacting the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act Been Dashed? – Passed in March 2017 by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, H.R. 985, has stalled in the Senate. Among other things, the House bill would dictate the method by which to calculate attorneys’ fees in a class action and significantly limit recoverable attorneys’ fees to a “reasonable percentage of (1) any payments received by class members; and (2) the value of any equitable relief.” (H.R. 985, § 103) The bill also installs a stringent “ascertainability” rule that would likely result in more denials of class certification. On March 13, 2017, the House bill was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the Committee has not taken any further actions to advance the bill. In the current political climate, there may be a tailwind for this legislative effort in 2018.
2. The FCC’s Progress and Speed in Resolving the Backlog of TCPA Petitions – Several petitions for declaratory ruling were filed with the FCC in late 2016 and 2017 requesting clarification on issues relating to the meaning of “prior express consent” under the TCPA. After soliciting and receiving comments from the public, those petitions are ripe for decision by the FCC. See In the Matter of Credit Union Nat’l Ass’n Petition for Declaratory Ruling, Dkt. No. 02-278 (filed Sept. 29, 2017) (requesting FCC to exempt from the TCPA all informational calls made by credit unions to cell phones where the wireless subscriber has an established business relationship with the credit union, or the called party is not charged for the call); In the Matter of Petition for Expedited Declaratory Ruling of Bebe Stores, Inc., Dkt. No. 02-278 (filed Nov. 18, 2016) (requesting retroactive waiver of TCPA’s “prior express written consent” requirement for robocalls for calls made by Bebe from October 16, 2013, to October 7, 2015). At least two petitions for declaratory ruling were filed by defendants in pending TCPA fax class actions last year, and those petitions also await decision from the FCC. …
Continue Reading 5 TCPA Class Action Trends to Watch in 2018 – Legislation, Administrative Law & Litigation
The Ninth Circuit recently issued its long-awaited opinion in Robins v. Spokeo, Inc., — F.3d —-, 2017 WL 3480695 (9th Cir. Aug. 15, 2017), on remand from the United States Supreme Court. Once again, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s lawsuit alleging willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. (“FCRA”), holding plaintiff’s alleged injuries were sufficiently “concrete” to satisfy Article III standing requirements. This most recent Spokeo decision (a/k/a Spokeo III) is the latest in a series of appellate decisions during the last year that have determined whether, and under what, circumstances a defendant’s alleged violation of a federal statute, without more, may satisfy Article III’s “injury-in-fact” requirement.
Continue Reading Spokeo—Round 3: The Ninth Circuit Finds Alleged Statutory Violation Sufficiently “Concrete” To Satisfy Article III Standing