Conditional Certification Denied To Illinois Jail Guards Who Were Not Paid For Time Outside Work Engaging In COVID-19 Protocols

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Derek Franklin 

Duane Morris TakeawaysIn Evans III, et al v. Dart, et al., No. 1:20-CV-02453 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 15, 2023), Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Of Illinois denied Plaintiffs’ motion for conditional certification of a collective action of Cook County Jail Guards who were not compensated for time spent off-the-clock decontaminating their work gear to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  In rejecting the jail correctional officers’ bid for conditional certification under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), the Court ruled the Plaintiffs could not establish that they were victims of a common policy or plan that violated the law, as there was no evidence that the jail even had an off-the-clock decontamination policy. Thus, the Court concluded that Plaintiffs failed to establish that their cleaning efforts outside of work resulted from any requirement imposed by their employer.  The ruling is a blueprint for corporate counsel in terms of a solid approach for opposing employment-related conditional certification motions.

Case Background

The factual origins of the case stem from a COVID-19 outbreak at the Cook County Department of Corrections (“Cook County Jail”) in April 2020.  Plaintiffs allege that, amid the outbreak, the Cook County Jail required correctional officers to “engag[e] in decontamination/sanitation activities” before and/or after their shifts within the CCDOC, “including washing and sanitizing their uniforms, sanitizing their persons, sanitizing and maintaining personal protective equipment (‘PPE’), and showering.”  Id. at 2.

According to Plaintiffs, they would spend approximately 20 to 30 minutes before and after shifts completing these protocols but were not paid for that time.  As the Court noted, “each Plaintiff described slightly different activities that took slightly different amounts of time,” which formed “a consistent narrative of enhanced decontamination activities, significantly exceeding what they did prior to COVID.”  Id. at 4.

In the same month that the April 2020 outbreak began, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on behalf of themselves and a proposed group of all persons who worked at the Cook County Jail between January 27, 2020 and June 11, 2021 who engaged in the purported COVID-19 decontamination protocols, but who were not paid for time spent on those activities. Id. at 3.

The Court’s Decision

The Court declined to certify the proposed collective action based on finding that Plaintiffs fell short in identifying a common policy requiring workers in the proposed collective action to engage in those [decontamination] activities as a condition of their employment.”  Id. at 1.  Importantly, the Court noted that the Plaintiffs themselves acknowledged that there was no express written policy requiring correctional officers to decontaminate outside of work, and that the only instructions that they received from supervisors about decontamination was during roll call meetings, when supervisors would merely “read and disseminate general advice from the CDC” and instruct guards to not bring items home from the jail. Id. at 4-5.

Another key finding by the Court was that Plaintiffs “did not report their off-duty decontamination activities to their supervisors, nor were they asked about those efforts or disciplined for failing to decontaminate proper.”  Id. at 5. Further, the Court made important note of how “no named Plaintiff reported monitoring the time consumed by their daily decontamination activities, submitting any decontamination overtime, or asking their supervisors about decontamination overtime, although many testified that there was no clear way to submit an overtime claim for these activities in the CCDOC “Workforce” record system.” Id.

In reaching its determination, the Court also rejected the relevance of a Communicable Diseases Policy that Cook County had in place requiring workers to “use good judgment and follow training and procedures related to mitigating the risks associated with communicable disease,” and if exposed to one, to “begin decontamination procedures immediately, obtain medical attention if needed, and “notify a supervisor as soon as practical.”  Id. at 7.  According to the Court, because this policy specified that its aim was to “provide a safe work environment,” the Court found it “hard to imagine how a pre-shift shower or laundering one’s uniform after a drive home is consistent with that language” and concluded, in turn, that the policy did not require the Plaintiffs to engage in COVID-19 protocols at issue outside of work at the jail. Id. at 11.

Finally, the Court discussed how, even if the Communicable Diseases Policy applied to activities outside of work, an “insurmountable” problem for Plaintiffs was that “none of them seemed to know about the policy at the time they were undertaking those activities.”  Id. at 12.  As a result, the Court found that there was no evidence showing that the Defendants had actual or constructive knowledge of any de facto policy requiring the Plaintiffs to engage in decontamination activities away from the jail.  Id. at 15.

For these reasons, the Court concluded that the Plaintiffs fell short of satisfying the requirements for conditional certification of their proposed collective action.

Implications For Employers

The Evans ruling underscores the importance of maintaining and utilizing well-organized clearly-delineated employee conduct policies for activities at and away from the workplace, in anticipation of arguing the absence of uniform policies and procedures in collective actions under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). In dismissing all of Plaintiffs’ arguments after finding an absence of policy or plan for all proposed collective action members that violated the law, the Court signaled its steady reliance on the well-established standards for these types of claims, providing a valuable reaffirmation to employers’ reliable defense strategies.

Colorado Supreme Court Applies Litigation Privilege To Attorney’s Allegedly Defamatory Statements About Class Action Defendant

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Derek Franklin 

Duane Morris TakeawaysIn Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP v. BKP, Inc., No. 21-SC-930, (Col. Sept. 11, 2023), the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an attorney’s allegedly defamatory statements about a company’s wage-and-hour practices during a press conference to announce filing a class action against that same company were protected by the litigation privilege.  The Supreme Court’s unanimous en banc opinion held that the Colorado Court of Appeals erred in concluding that there was an exception to the applicability of the litigation privilege where the size and contours of the proposed class were easily ascertainable from the employer’s records and undermined the need to identify and alert potential class members through the press.  In reversing the appellate panel’s ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court determined that the attorney’s statements were shielded from defamation claims by the litigation privilege since the statements merely repeated wage-and-hour allegations made in the complaint and advanced the goals of the lawsuit.  The decision in BKP serves as a reminder to companies of the potential pitfalls of bringing defamation claims against attorneys who disseminate information to the public about a party that they are suing in a class action.

Case Background

In 2018, two law firms, Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP and Towards Justice (collectively, along with attorney Mari Newman of Killmer, Lane & Newman, “the Attorneys”), filed a federal class action lawsuit claiming that Ella Bliss Beauty Bar (“Ella Bliss”), an operator of beauty salons in the Denver metropolitan area, failed to properly pay its nail technicians for required custodial work under federal and Colorado state law.  Id. at 5.

On the same day the federal lawsuit was filed, one the Attorneys, Mari Newman, held a press conference in which she stated that Ella Bliss nail technicians had to clean the businesses “for no pay whatsoever,” that the salons “only pay [employees] for the hours they feel like paying,” and that Ella Bliss “is simply too cheap to pay its workers the money they deserve.”  Id. at 43.  The Attorneys collectively also issued a press release that day asserting that “Ella Bliss Beauty Bar forced its service technicians to perform janitorial work without pay, refused to pay overtime, withheld tips, and shorted commissions.”  Id. at 44.

Exactly one year later, Ella Bliss’ parent company, BKP, Inc. (“BKP”) filed a defamation lawsuit against the Attorneys in Colorado state court pertaining to five allegedly defamatory statements that the Attorneys made during their 2018 press remarks, including the ones quoted above.  Id. at 13.  The district court dismissed the defamation suit and found that the Attorneys’ statements were protected by the litigation privilege, which shields from defamation claims statements by an attorney that have “some reference to the subject matter of . . . proposed or pending litigation.”  Id. at 22.

When the Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to a three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals, the appellate panel partially reversed the district court’s decision and found that some of the statements at issue were not shielded by the litigation privilege.  Id. at 49.  While the Attorneys argued that the goals of the media statements were to promote their class action and publicize it to potential additional class members, the appellate panel rejected that notion since the Attorneys were set to receive employment records and payroll documents in discovery that could have easily identified the class members without needing to resort to harmful press statements.  Id. at 14.

Following the appellate decision, the Colorado Supreme Court granted the petitioner’s writ for certiorari and analyzed on the question of “whether the common law litigation privilege for party-generated publicity in pending class action litigation excludes situations in which the identities of class members are ascertainable through discovery.”  Id. at 1.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s Decision

On further appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the appellate panel’s ruling and determined that the litigation privilege applied to the allegedly defamatory attorney statements at issue.  Id. at 49.  The Supreme Court reasoned that the statements “merely repeated, summarized, or paraphrased allegations in the class action complaint” and, therefore, “served to notify the public, absent class members, and witnesses about, and therefore furthered the objective of, the litigation.”  Id. at 42.

The Supreme Court also held that the appellate panel erred by basing its litigation privilege analysis on whether the identities of class members were easily ascertainable through discovery.  Id. at 2.  According to the Supreme Court, two reasons led to that conclusion: “(1) ascertainability is generally a requirement in class action litigation, and imposing such a condition would unduly limit the privilege in this kind of case;” and (2) “the eventual identification of class members by way of documents obtained during discovery is not a substitute for reaching absent class members and witnesses in the beginning stages of litigation.”  Id.

Implications For Employers

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in BKP, Inc. is notable in that it may serve to embolden the inclination of some class action plaintiffs’ attorneys to use strategic communication techniques to air their clients’ claims in the ‘court of public opinion’ in an attempt to gain leverage, as well as using mass communication tools to grow the reach of their lawsuit to more potential class members. While employers understandably may want to fight back against weaponized misinformation by asserting defamation claims, employers should exercise caution and pick their battles when it comes to such claims, given the high potential for variance in judicial outcomes in states where the case law on this issue remains unsettled and the jurisdictional variables also at play.  Ultimately, corporate counsel should carefully consider the potential risks of pursuing a defamation claim against an attorney based on statements that a court may find shielded by privilege regardless of their truthfulness.

Ohio Federal District Court Authorizes Notice Of FLSA Claims In Step One Of The Two-Step “Strong Likelihood” Test And Certifies Rule 23 Class

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Kathryn Brown

Duane Morris Takeaways: In Hogan v. Cleveland Ave Restaurant, Inc. d/b/a Sirens, et al., 15-CV-2883 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 6, 2023), Chief Judge Algenon L. Marbley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio authorized notice to potential opt-in plaintiffs and conditionally certified a collective action of thousands of adult club dancers in a case asserting violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Ohio law, including claims of unpaid minimum wages, unlawfully withheld tips, and unlawful deductions and/or kickbacks. For good measure, the Court also granted class certification on the plaintiffs’ state law claims. The opinion is a must-read for employers in the Sixth Circuit facing — or hoping to avoid facing — class and collective wage & hour claims.

Case Background

On October 6, 2015, the named plaintiff Hogan filed the lawsuit as a class and collective action asserting violations of the FLSA and Ohio law. After amending the complaint in May 2017 to add additional defendants, on May 14, 2020, Hogan filed a Second Amended Class and Collective Action Complaint, the operative complaint, with a second named plaintiff, Valentine.

In the operative complaint, the named plaintiffs asserted claims against seven adult entertainment clubs and their owners and managers as well as two club associations and an individual defendant with which the clubs were associated. The plaintiffs later settled their claims against one of the seven clubs.

The allegations in the operative complaint center on the clubs’ use of a landlord-tenant system by which the defendant clubs charged dancers “rent” to perform at the clubs for tips from customers in lieu of paying them wages for hours worked.

On September 26, 2022, the plaintiffs moved for certification of their claims as a class and collective action. The parties concluded briefing on the motion five months before May 2023, when the Sixth Circuit issued its pivotal decision in Clark v. A&L Homecare and Training Center, LLC, 68 F.4th 1003 (6th Cir. 2023). In Clark, the Sixth Circuit ushered in a new, more employer-favorable standard for deciding motions for conditional certification pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) of the FLSA.

The District Court’s Decision

First, the court articulated the standard by which it would decide the plaintiffs’ motion for court-supervised notice of their FLSA claims.  The court described the Sixth Circuit’s opinion in Clark as “maintain[ing] the two-step process for FLSA collective actions but alter[ing] the calculus.” Slip Op. at 7. Whereas pre-Clark case law authorized notice at step one of the two-step process after only a modest showing of similarly-situated status, the standard post-Clark demands that plaintiffs show a “strong likelihood” exists that there are others similarly situated to the named plaintiffs with respect to the defendants’ alleged violations of the FLSA prior to authorizing notice.  Defendants after Clark retain the ability, after fact discovery concludes, to demonstrate that the named plaintiffs in fact are not similarly- situated to any individual who files a consent to join the lawsuit as a so-called opt-in plaintiff. Also unchanged by Clark is the standard for determining similarly-situated status for FLSA purposes.

The court in Hogan concluded that the plaintiffs adequately demonstrated a “strong likelihood” that they are in fact similar to the proposed group of dancers who too were classified as “tenants” of the six defendant clubs who paid rent to lease space at the clubs to earn tips from customers without receiving any wages from the defendant clubs.

In support of their motion, the plaintiffs submitted sworn declarations, deposition testimony, and documentary evidence of the defendants’ policies and practices with respect to dancers. The court found that the plaintiffs showed that the clubs maintained a system in which the defendants acted together to require dancers to pay rent for leasing space, often documented in lease agreements, instead of being paid as employees for performing work.

Among the defendants’ arguments opposing the plaintiff’s motion, the court considered, but ultimately rejected, the defendants’ argument that arbitration provisions in the lease agreements should preclude court-authorized notice of the FLSA claims. The court cited Clark for the proposition that it may consider as a relevant factor the defense of mandatory arbitration agreements in deciding whether to authorize notice of FLSA claims. Homing in on the facts, the court reasoned that members of the potential collective action did not all sign the lease agreements and that those who signed the lease agreements had the option to agree to forgo arbitration of their claims.  According to the court, the defendants would have a stronger basis to defeat court-authorized notice if they could show that all dancers had to sign the lease agreement and the lease agreement made arbitration mandatory.

In addition, the court evaluated whether the plaintiffs satisfied the Rule 23 standards for seeking to certify a class of dancers on their state law claims. The court concluded that the plaintiffs met the requirements for class certification under Rule 23(b)(3), because questions of law or fact common to class members predominated over any questions affecting only individual members (the predominance inquiry), and that a class action was superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the case (the superiority inquiry).

As to predominance, the court reasoned that the issue of the defendants’ alleged unlawful system of treating dancers as tenants rather than paying them wages predominated over individualized issues such as whether a particular dancer signed a lease agreement. As to superiority, the court concluded that the relatively small size of each dancer’s wage claim demonstrated that individuals would have little incentive to pursue their claims alone.  Finding no factors pointing against class treatment of the claims, the court concluded that treating the claims as a class action was the superior method for adjudicating liability efficiently.

Implications For Employers

Hogan is the latest in a series of opinions applying the Sixth Circuit’s novel “strong likelihood” standard to plaintiffs’ efforts to expand the scope of their FLSA claims to potential opt-in plaintiffs. The developing case law in this area reflects a highly fact-specific approach to deciding whether plaintiffs have made the necessary showing to unlock court-authorized notice of their claims to potential opt-in plaintiffs.  The opinion in Hogan is significant in that it grapples with the “strong likelihood” standard alongside the well-established test for certifying a class pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Maryland Federal District Court Dismisses Class Action Alleging Website Privacy Violations For Lack Of Article III Standing

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley and Rebecca S. Bjork

Duane Morris Takeaways: On September 1, 2023, Judge Deborah Chasanow of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granted a motion to dismiss a class action alleging that the website of defendant Jetblue Airways violated users’ privacy rights under the Maryland Website and Electronic Surveillance Act (“MWES”A).  Finding that the named Plaintiff lacked Article III standing to bring the lawsuit, the Court relied upon the lack of any allegations in the Complaint that any of Plaintiff’s personal information was captured by the alleged use of a session replay code.  As a result, his Complaint lacked any allegation of a concrete harm that is necessary to bestow standing by virtue of suffering an injury-in-fact.  Employers are well-served to examine their websites for the level of risk they might pose of exposure to litigation of this kind, which is currently being filed in more and more courts around the country.   

Case Background

Jetblue Airways Corp. (“Jetblue”) was sued by Matthew Straubmuller in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging that he and a putative class of website users who had visited Jetblue’s website were entitled to damages from Jetblue for violation of the MWESA.  Slip Op. at 2.  The purpose of that statute is two-fold: both to be a useful tool in crime prevention; and to ensure that “interception of private communications is limited.”  Id. at 8.

Plaintiff alleged Jetblue’s website uses a “session replay code” and that this allows for Jetblue to track users electronic communications with the website in real time, and also can enable reenactments of a user’s visit to the website, and that these constitute actionable privacy violations under the provisions of the MWESA.

JetBlue filed a motion to dismiss. It asserted that that Plaintiff lacked Article III standing to bring his claims.  It contended that Plaintiff alleged a mere procedural violation of the MWESA and did not allege a concrete harm necessary to establish an injury-in-fact to confer standing.

The District Court’s Decision

Judge Chasnow granted Jetblue’s motion to dismiss.  Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in TransUnion v. Ramirez, 141 S. Ct. 2190 (2021), she rejected Plaintiff’s argument that a statutory violation alone is a concrete injury.  The Judge opined that “Courts must independently decide whether a plaintiff has suffered a concrete harm because a plaintiff cannot automatically satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement whenever there is a statutory violation.”  Slip Op. at 5-6 (quoting TransUnion (“under Article III, an injury in law is not an injury in fact.”).  And more to the point, she cited case law interpreting the MWESA itself to this effect, which Plaintiff had not cited.  Id.

As a way of underlining its ruling, the Court noted that Jetblue had submitted a June 12, 2023 decision coming to the exact same conclusion involving a nearly identical complaint filed against Jetblue in the Southern District of California in Lightoller v. Jetblue Airways Corp.  Id. at 4.n.1. Other cases involving similar rulings are presently percolating throughout the federal district courts.  Id. at 7 (collecting cases).

Implications For Employers

Judge Chasnow’s decision in Straubmuller v. Jetblue Airways Corp. provides corporate counsel with a good opportunity to set up a time to talk with their company’s information technology officers to discuss litigation risks related to websites and how they interact with employees, prospective employees and customers.  As more plaintiffs-side attorneys file lawsuits alleging privacy violations like the ones alleged against Jetblue in both state and federal courts around the country, many have a good chance of surviving motions to dismiss.  Preventing class action lawsuits are far superior to defending them.

Arizona Federal Court Grants Pest Control Company’s Motion To Dismiss Data Breach Class Claims

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and George J. Schaller

Duane Morris Takeaways: In Gannon v. Truly Nolen of America Inc., No. 22-CV-428 (D. Ariz. Aug. 31, 2023), Judge James Soto of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss with prejudice on negligence, breach of contract, and consumer fraud claims related to a data breach class action. For companies facing data breach claims in class actions, this decision is instructive in terms of how courts consider cognizable damages, especially when damages allegations are inadequately plead.

Case Background

Defendant Truly Nolen of America Inc. (“Defendant” or the “Company”), is an Arizona corporation that provides pest control services across the United States and in 30 countries around the world.  Id. at 2.  The Company experienced a data breach between April 29, 2022 and May 11, 2022.  On May 11, 2022, the Company learned the breach occurred and identified personally identifiable information (“PII”) and personal health information (“PHI”) that was compromised.  Id.  In August of 2022, Defendant sent notice letters to individuals whose data may have been compromised.  Id.  

The Named Plaintiff, Crystal Gannon (“Plaintiff”), alleged that she received her notice letter regarding the data breach in August of 2022.  Id. at 3.  In her First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), Plaintiff sought to represent two proposed classes of plaintiffs, including one for a Nationwide Class and one for an Arizona Sub-class, related to the data breach.  Id.

Plaintiff alleged numerous claims such as negligence, invasion of privacy, breach of implied contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act (“Fraud Act”).  Id.  In response, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiff’s case was without basis and the entire case was subject to dismissal.  Id.

The Court’s Decision

The Court held that there was no valid basis for Plaintiff’s negligence claim.  Id. at 4.  Plaintiff argued that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) and the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTCA”) created a duty in Arizona from which relief could be sought.  Id.  The Court disagreed. It found that neither the HIPAA nor the FTCA provided a private right of action.  Id.  The Court reasoned that “[p]ermitting HIPAA to define the ‘duty and liability for breach is no less than a private action to enforce HIPAA, which is precluded.’”  Id.  The Court applied the same logic to the FTCA.  Id.

On negligence damages, the Court held that Plaintiff’s FAC failed “to show identity theft or loss in continuity of healthcare of any class members – only the possibility of each.”  Id.  Under Arizona law, negligence damages require more than merely a threat of future harm, and on their own, threats of future harm are not cognizable negligence injuries.  Id. 4-5.  Similarly, as to out-of-pocket expenses, the Court opined that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that her expenses were necessary because she did not properly show that Defendant’s identity monitoring services were inadequate.  Id. at 5.  Finally, the Court recognized that merely alleging a diminution in value to somebody’s PII or PHI was insufficient.  Id.  Therefore, the Court dismissed Plaintiff’s negligence claims.

Turning to Plaintiff’s breach of contract claims, the Court determined that Plaintiff did not show cognizable damages, a reasonable construction for the terms of the contract, or consideration for the existence of an implied contract.  Id. at 6. The Court held that Plaintiff’s FAC allegations only reflected speculative damages and did not allege proof of real damages.  Id. at 5.  The Court opined that Plaintiff’s “vaguely pleaded” contract terms failed to show any language that would inform the terms of the agreement and Plaintiff did not point to any conduct or circumstances from which the terms could be determined.  Id. at 5-6.  Finally, the Court determined that even if Defendant had an obligation to protect the data at issue, such pre-existing obligations did not serve as consideration for a contract.  Id.  Therefore, the Court dismissed all breach of implied contract claims.  Id.

On the claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, Plaintiff argued that Defendant breached by failing to maintain adequate computer systems and data security practices, failed to timely and adequately disclose the data breach, and inadequately stored PII and PHI.  Because Plaintiff failed to show an enforceable promise, the Court held there could be no breach, and all claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing were dismissed.  Id. at 6.

The Court also dismissed Plaintiff’s Fraud Act claims because Plaintiff failed to show cognizable damages.  Id. at 7.  The Court reasoned “[p]laintiff cannot simply argue that the system is inadequate because a negative result occurred.”  Id.  The Court also reasoned that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Defendant’s security was inadequate when compared to other companies or any set of industry standards. Id.  As to Plaintiff’s privacy claims, the Court held that there were no cognizable claims for invasion of privacy or breach of privacy, and Plaintiff did not dispute these claims in her response.  Id.

Accordingly, the Court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss as to all claims, denied Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint, and dismissed the case with prejudice. Id.

Implications For Companies

Companies confronted with data breach lawsuits should take note that the Arizona federal court in Gannon relied heavily on inadequately pleaded allegations in considering cognizable damages for purposes of granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Further, from a practical standpoint, companies should carefully evaluate pleadings for insufficient or speculative assertions on damages.

Ohio Federal Court Grants Conditional Certification In Wage & Hour Collective Action Under The Sixth Circuit’s New “Strong Likelihood” Standard

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Kathryn Brown

Duane Morris Takeaways: In Gifford v. Northwood Healthcare Group LLC et al., No. 22-CV-04389 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 21, 2023), Judge Sarah D. Morrison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted plaintiff’s motion for conditional certification of a wage & hour collective action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  Through sworn declarations and documentary evidence of defendants’ meal break policy, the Court found plaintiff showed a “strong likelihood” that she was similarly-situated to potential collective action members who may elect to join the lawsuit.  The ruling adds to the body of case law applying the Sixth Circuit’s new standard for notice to potential opt-in plaintiffs in putative FLSA collective actions announced in Clark v. A&L Homecare and Training Center, LLC, 68 F.4th 1003 (6th Cir. 2023), and ought to be required reading for any employers involved in wage & hour litigation.

Case Background

On December 15, 2022, plaintiff filed a Complaint against Northwood Healthcare Group, LLC and Garden Healthcare Group, LLC, two entities operating healthcare facilities in Ohio.  Plaintiff allegedly worked at two such facilities as a non-exempt Licensed Practical Nurse.  The lawsuit targeted the defendants’ meal break practices.  Plaintiff contended that due to staffing shortages and the demands of patient care, she did not receive a full, uninterrupted 30-minute (“bona fide”) meal break on a regular basis.  As alleged in the Complaint, defendants automatically deducted 30 minutes of time from her hours worked even when she did not receive a bona fide meal break, resulting in unpaid overtime compensation.  On behalf of herself and similarly situated other employees, Plaintiff brought claims asserting failure to pay overtime wages under the FLSA, failure to pay overtime wages under the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act (“OMFWSA”), failure to keep accurate payroll records under the OMFWSA and failure to pay wages timely under the Ohio Prompt Pay Act.

On March 15, 2023, plaintiff filed a motion for conditional certification of a collective action.  On May 15, 2023, defendants opposed the motion on the merits and urged the Court to delay ruling until the Sixth Circuit issued its opinion in Clark.

On May 19, 2023, the Sixth Circuit in Clark announced a more rigorous standard for authorizing notice of an FLSA lawsuit to other employees.  Abandoning the prior standard of a “modest factual showing” of similarly situated status, the standard in Clark requires plaintiffs to establish a “strong likelihood” that they are similarly situated to potential other plaintiffs.

Days later, in her reply brief filed on May 23, 2023, plaintiff argued that the evidence she presented in her motion satisfied the new standard in Clark.

The Court’s Decision

The Court determined that the evidence provided in support of plaintiff’s motion satisfied the “substantial likelihood” standard announced in Clark.

Specifically, plaintiff provided her own sworn declaration and the sworn declarations of six individuals who had filed consents to join the lawsuit as opt-in plaintiffs.  Together, plaintiff and the other declarants worked at six of the 14 facilities plaintiff sought to include in her lawsuit.  The Court found the declarations told a consistent story of employees not receiving overtime pay for those occasions when patient care needs required employees to skip or cut short their designated 30 minutes for a meal break, even after employees complained to management about being undercompensated.

Plaintiff also submitted evidence of employee handbooks in effect at the six facilities at which the declarants had worked for the defendants.  The Court found that the handbooks reflected nearly identical policies on overtime compensation and meal breaks.  For example, the meal break policy in the various employee handbooks stated that employees who worked through their meal breaks would receive pay for their time, whether the work was authorized or not. Defendants argued that plaintiff’s evidence fell short of identifying a “companywide” policy.  Defendants pointed out that the declarants had no personal knowledge of the meal break practices in effect at facilities operated by defendants at which they had not worked.  The Court disagreed. It opined that plaintiff presented enough evidence of a unified theory of conduct by defendants, notwithstanding that the declarants did not represent former employees at all of the facilities the plaintiff sought to include in the lawsuit.

The Court concluded that the evidence “establishes to a certain degree of probability” that the plaintiff, the individuals who had already filed consents to become opt-in plaintiffs, and the other potential plaintiffs performed the same tasks, were subject to the same policies and were unified by a common theory underlying their causes of action. Id. at 8.

In so ruling, the Court authorized plaintiff to send notice to all current and former hourly, non-exempt direct care employees of defendants who had a meal break deduction applied to their hours worked in any workweek in which they were paid for at least 40 hours of work during a three-year lookback period and through the final disposition of the case.

Implications For Employers

The Court’s ruling in Gifford demonstrates that application of the Sixth Circuit’s “strong likelihood” standard is highly dependent on the evidence presented by a plaintiff.  By contrast, under the prior standard, courts routinely granted plaintiffs’ motions to authorize notice to potential opt-in plaintiffs.

Employers with operations in Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and/or Kentucky should keep a close watch on Gifford and other cases applying the Sixth Circuit’s new standard in FLSA litigation.

Class Certification Granted To Illinois Consumers Whose DNA Was Shared With Third Parties Without Their Consent

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Jeffrey R. Zohn

Duane Morris Takeaways: On August 3, 2023, Judge Elaine E. Bucklo of the U.S. District Court For The Northern District Of Illinois granted class certification for individuals located in Illinois who had their genetic test results disclosed to third parties by Defendant Sequencing, LLC (“Sequencing”) in Melvin v. Sequencing, LLC, Case No. 21-CV-2194 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2023). Plaintiff David Melvin moved for class certification under Rule 23 on the basis that Sequencing violated the rights of up to 1,550 people under the Illinois Genetic Information Privacy Act (“GIPA”).  Sequencing opposed the motion by arguing that a ruling on class certification should be delayed or denied because Plaintiff is not an adequate class representative and that Plaintiff failed to establish the predominance and superiority requirements of Rule 23.  Sequencing’s position was not well-taken as the Court granted the Motion in a succinct 11-page order that described aspects of Sequencing’s arguments as “unaccompanied by authority” and lacking “reasoned argument.” The ruling is required reading for any companies dealing with GIPA claims in class action litigation.

GIPA Background

The Illinois legislature enacted the GIPA, 410 ILCS 513, in order to enhance privacy protections by prohibiting the unauthorized disclosure and use of an individual’s genetic information.  Relevant to Melvin, Section 15 of the GIPA provides that “genetic testing and information derived from genetic testing is confidential and privileged and may be released only to the individual tested and to persons specifically authorized . . . by that individual to receive the information.”  Id. at *2.  Section 30 of the GIPA provides that “[n]o person may disclose . . . the identity of any person upon whom a genetic test is performed or the results of a genetic test in a manner that permits identification of the subject of the test[.]”  Id.  Section 35 of the GIPA prohibits the dissemination of genetic information to an entity other than the one to which the subject provided it.  Id.

Case History

In Melvin, Plaintiff sought to represent a class of Illinois consumers who sent their DNA to Sequencing only for Sequencing to disclose it to unknown third party developers without first obtaining those consumers’ consent.

During discovery, Sequencing described its process for collecting and analyzing its customers’ DNA.  The customers either send Sequencing their DNA directly or upload the results of a DNA test taken by a third party, such as 23andMe or  Sequencing uses that information to create a “DNA data file” containing “raw human DNA data” that can be used to assess the customers’ genetic code.  Id. at 4. The customers can then purchase reports based on their own genetic code.  Most of the reports that are available for purchase are provided by third party developers.  As soon as a customer purchases a report, their personal and genetic information is automatically transmitted to the corresponding third party developer.

Plaintiff, who went through this entire process, claimed that Sequencing did not inform him that his genetic information would be shared and that he never consented to the disclosure of that information to anyone.

The Court’s Opinion

In granting Plaintiff’s motion for class certification, Judge Bucklo issued an 11-page order “plain[ly]” explaining “that a class action is the superior vehicle for pursuing the class claims asserted” by Plaintiff.  Id. at 10. Since Sequencing did not meaningfully dispute or argue otherwise, the Court concluded that Plaintiff satisfied the numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of counsel requirements of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Sequencing suggested that Plaintiff was not an adequate class representative because he had suffered no damages at all.  The Court rejected this “bald statement,” which was “unaccompanied by authority or reasoned argument.”  Id. at 9.  It noted that Sequencing “offers no basis to believe that Plaintiff would not be entitled to the same statutory damages he claims on behalf of the class and subclass if he succeeds in establishing Defendant’s liability.”  Id.

The Court was also unpersuaded by Sequencing’s argument to deny class certification based on Plaintiff’s failure to establish the predominance and superiority requirements of Rule 23.  It reasoned that “no absent class members have filed individual GIPA claims against” Sequencing nor has Sequencing articulated a reason to believe that individual class members have an interest in pursuing and controlling separate GIPA actions.  Id. at 10.

As a last ditch effort to oppose class certification, Sequencing argued that the Court should “probe behind the pleadings before coming to rest on the certification question.”  Id. at 10-11.  This argument was not well-taken by the Court. Judge Bucklo determined that “[P]laintiff’s motion does not rest on the pleadings alone but on the ample evidence he has developed in discovery.  Moreover, [Sequencing] offers no hint of the evidence it expects to uncover that would cut against class treatment of Plaintiff’s claims.”  Id.

Finding that none of Sequencing’s arguments had merit, the Court granted Plaintiff’s motion and certified the class.

Implications For Corporate Defendants

When opposing a motion for class certification, it is important to choose arguments carefully and selectively. In Melvin, Sequencing conceded that Plaintiff had satisfied most of the Rule 23 requirements while only half-haphazardly arguing that Plaintiff did not satisfy the remaining requirements.  The Court did not take Sequencing’s overall position seriously, as it described Sequencing’s opposition as containing “bald statement[s]” “unaccompanied by authority or reasoned argument.”

West Virginia Federal Court Finds Lack Of Involvement By Defendant In Alleged Class Action Solicitation Does Not Preclude Personal Jurisdiction Or Article III Standing 

Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Nick Baltaxe

Duane Morris Takeaways: On July 18, 2023, in Mey v. Levin, Papantonio, Rafferty, Proctor, Buchanan, O’Brien, Barr & Mougey, P.A., et al., Case No. 5:23-CV-46 (N.D. W. Va. July 18, 2023), the Court denied a motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the “TCPA”).  In doing so, the Court held that, despite the fact that Levin Law did not direct and was not involved in the alleged calls, the Court had personal jurisdiction over Levin Law, and Plaintiff had Article III standing to pursue the TCPA claims.  In doing so, the Court found allegations concerning the law firm’s alleged agency relationship with a co-defendant sufficient to confer broad authority to adjudicate Plaintiff’s claims against Levin Law under the TCPA.  Additionally, the Court concluded that Plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to support a do-not-call claim under the TCPA by alleging that her cell phone was a residential phone on the National Do-Not-Call Registry. 

Case Background

Plaintiff Diana Mey, a resident of West Virginia, initiated this lawsuit against two law firms, Levin Law and Principal Law Group, LLC, alleging that those defendants violated the TCPA by soliciting clients for a mass tort litigation related to toxic water exposure at Camp Lejeune.  Mey, Doc. 33 at 1-2.  Defendant Levin Law filed a motion to dismiss on numerous grounds, including that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction, that Plaintiff lacked Article III standing, that Plaintiff failed to plead direct or vicarious liability, and that Plaintiff failed to plead a violation of the TCPA.  Id.  The Court denied the motion.  Id.  Specifically, Levin Law argued that it was not directly involved in any of the phone calls, which were made by co-defendant MCM Services Group, LLC (“MCM”), and therefore could not be sued for violation of the TCPA.  Id. at 8.

Initially, Levin Law, a Florida professional corporation with a principal place of business in Pensacola, Florida, argued that it did not have sufficient minimum contacts with West Virginia because it did not purposely direct the alleged tortious activity toward the state.  Id. While the Court acknowledged that Levin Law was not directly involved in the telephone calls placed to Plaintiff, it held that Plaintiff had provided sufficient facts to find that the calls were made by an agent under Levin Law’s control.  Id. at 12.  Specifically, the Court noted that Plaintiff allegedly received a representation agreement from Principal Law, under which Levin Law would provide legal services to Plaintiff, and Principal Law would serve as Levin Law’s associate counsel.  Id.  The Court found that these allegations were sufficient to plausibly connect Levin Law to the alleged calls.  In a final point regarding personal jurisdiction, the Court did not address whether it had personal jurisdiction over out-of-state class members noting that, to proceed with the case, it needed to find personal jurisdiction only over the named Plaintiff and Defendants.  Id. at 13.

The Court then addressed Levin Law’s argument that Plaintiff did not have Article III standing.  Specifically, Levin Law argued that the calls, which were initiated by MCM, were not traceable to any conduct by Levin Law, which was a necessary prong in establishing Article III standing.  Id.  The Court, however, noted that because the representation agreement identified Principal Law as Levin’s Law associate counsel, and Plaintiff received the agreement from Principal Law, the Court reasonably could infer that the calls were made by someone under Levin Law’s control.  Id. at 14.  As such, the Court found that Plaintiff had pled sufficient facts to trace the challenged conduct to the defendant and, as such, had asserted Article III standing.

The Court addressed Levin Law’s final arguments that Plaintiff failed to plead a theory of liability against it and, further, failed to state a do-not-call claim under the TCPA.  First, the Court held that Plaintiff asserted sufficient factual allegations to show vicarious liability and to survive a Motion to Dismiss.  Id. at 15.  Second, the Court found no case law supporting dismissal of a TCPA claim on the basis that the defendant allegedly placed a call to a cell phone instead of a residential phone.  Id. at 17.  Specifically, the Court noted that Plaintiff had alleged that her cell phone was used for residential purposes and was placed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry, making the claim actionable under the TCPA.  Id. 

Key Takeaways

In this ruling, the Court made interesting findings that will extend to plaintiffs outside the TCPA context to survive attacks at the pleading stage of litigation.  Specifically, the Court found both personal jurisdiction and Article III standing despite the fact that Levin Law did not purposefully direct the activity at issue.  By doing so, the Court agreed with arguments that the conduct of an alleged agent was enough to establish both personal jurisdiction and Article III standing.  Going forward, plaintiffs will have yet another way to support personal jurisdiction and Article III standing at the outset of the case even against defendants who they do not contend were directly involved in the conduct about which they complain.  Additionally, while there is a split in authority as to whether the TCPA extends to wireless telephone numbers, the Court in this litigation had no issue finding that a cell phone could be a residential phone for purposes of the TCPA, potentially extending its reach and keeping it relevant as a potential source of claims against corporate defendants.

Tennessee Federal Court Dismisses Class Action Under the Video Privacy Protection Act Because Plaintiff Failed to Allege He Accessed Video Content

By Brandon Spurlock and Jennifer A. Riley

Duane Morris Takeaways: On July 18, 2023, in Salazar v. Paramount Global d/b/a 247Sports, No. 3:22-CV-00756 (M.D. Tenn. July 18, 2023), Judge Eli Richardson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee dismissed a class action lawsuit against Paramount Global because the Plaintiff failed to state a claim under the Video Privacy Protection Act (“VPPA”) where Plaintiff’s allegation that his subscription to an online newsletter made him a “subscriber” under the statute was insufficient because he did not allege that he accessed audio visual content through the newsletter.  The VPPA is a law from 1980’s stemming from the failed Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, which involved his video rental history being published during the nomination process.  In the ensuing decades, companies are seeing an increase in class action lawsuits under the VPPA and other consumer privacy statutes where plaintiffs seek to levy heavy penalties against businesses with an online presence.  This ruling illustrates that some federal courts will closely examine such statutes to ensure that a plaintiff adequately states a claim based on the underlying statutory definitions before allowing a class action to proceed.

Case Background

Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Defendant Paramount Global d/b/a 247Sports alleging a violation of the VPPA.  Id. at 1.  According to Defendant, is an industry leader in content for college sports, delivering team-specific news through online news feeds, social platforms, daily newsletters, podcasts, text alerts and mobile apps.  Id. at 2.  Plaintiff alleged that Paramount installed a Facebook tracking pixel, which allows Facebook to collect the data on digital subscribers to who also have a Facebook account.  Id. at 3-4.  So if a digital subscriber of is logged-in to his or her Facebook account while watching video content on, then sends to Facebook (via the Facebook pixel) the video content name, its URL, and, most notably, the digital subscriber’s Facebook ID.  Id. at 4.  Plaintiff claimed that Paramount violated the VPPA when it installed the Facebook pixel, which caused the disclosure to Facebook of Plaintiff’s personally identifying information.  Id. at 5.  Paramount moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and for failure to state a claims for relief under Rule 12(b)(6).

The Court’s Decision That Plaintiff Had Standing Under The VPPA

First, Paramount argued that Plaintiff did not have standing because Plaintiff failed to adequately allege either a concrete injury in fact or the traceability of the injury to Paramount’s conduct, because the alleged disclosure of Plaintiff’s information to Facebook did not constitute a concrete injury.  Id. at 9.  Rejecting Paramount’s standing argument, the Court noted that the VPPA created a “right to privacy of one’s video-watching history, the deprivation of which – through wrongful disclosure, or statutory violation alone – constitutes an injury sufficient to confer Article III standing.”  Id. at 11-12.  In other words, the VPPA created a statutory right to have personally identifiable information remain private by prohibiting disclosure to third parties.  Id. at 12.  Thus, the Court ruled that Plaintiff’s allegation that his personally identifiable information was transmitted to Facebook in violation of the VPPA identified a concrete harm for standing purposes.  Id. at 14.

Plaintiff Failed To State A Claim Under The VPPA

Paramount also asserted that Plaintiff had no claim under the VPPA because he was not a “consumer,” meaning “any renter, purchaser, or subscriber of goods or services from a video tape service provider.”  Id. at 17.  Because Plaintiff was not a “consumer” within the meaning of the VPPA, Paramount argued he was not a “subscriber of goods or services from a video tape service provider,” and Plaintiff did not state a claim under the VPPA because the statute only protects individuals who are “consumers” under the statute.  Id. at 18.

The Court noted that although the VPPA does not define “subscriber,” the dictionary definition indicates that “subscriber” is a person who “imparts money and/or personal information in order to receive a future and recurrent benefit.”  Id. at 19.  Further interpreting the statute, the Court reasoned that a consumer is only a “subscriber” under the statute when he or she subscribes to audio visual materials.  Id. at 21.  Completing the analysis, the Court reasoned that under the VPPA, because Plaintiff’s subscription to the newsletter was not sufficient to establish that the he had subscribed to audio visual materials, Plaintiff’s position was unavailing in claiming that his subscription to the newsletter renders him a “subscriber.”  Id. at 22.

The Court, therefore, dismissed Plaintiff’s VPPA class action lawsuit because Plaintiff failed to allege that he actually accessed audio visual content, which necessarily meant that Plaintiff was not a subscriber under the VPPA.  Id. at 22.

Implications For Businesses

This past year has seen an uptick in VPPA class action filings against businesses that operate websites offering online videos and using third-party tracking tools.  These lawsuits represent an ongoing pattern of increased consumer privacy class litigation throughout the country exposing companies to significant risk across a wide array of industries.  Corporate counsel should note this ruling is a positive indication that some courts will closely examine the plain language and legislative intent of a privacy statute to ensure that a plaintiff actually states a viable claim before allowing class litigation to proceed.

Ninth Circuit Finds Article III Standing Under The TCPA For Owner Of Registered Phone With Third-Party User

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Nick Baltaxe

Duane Morris Takeaways: On June 30, 2023, in Kristen Hall v. Smosh Dot Com, Inc., DBA Smosh, et al., No. 22-16216 (9th Cir. June 30, 2023), the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal for lack of Article III standing of a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the “TCPA”) and remanded the claim for further proceedings.  In doing so, the Ninth Circuit held that the owner and subscriber of a phone with a number listed on the Do-Not-Call Registry suffers an injury in fact when unsolicited telemarking calls or texts are sent to the number even if the communications are intended for or solicited by another individual or someone else is using the phone at the time the messages are transmitted.  In so holding, the Ninth Circuit established that the receipt of unsolicited phone calls or text messages in violation of the TCPA is a “concrete injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing” even if the individual bringing the claim was not the phone’s primary user.  As a result, the ruling is required reading for any corporate counsel dealing with TCPA class action litigation.

Case Background

Plaintiff Kristen Hall, a resident of Willis, Texas, was in possession of a cellular phone that was used primarily for residential purposes and, at times, provided to her 13-year old son to use in his free time.  Hall, No. 22-16216, at 5-6.  Plaintiff placed this number on the National Do-Not-Call Registry in order to avoid invasive and irritating solicitation calls and to protect her son from any potential threats.  Id.  Plaintiff alleged that she was the owner and subscriber of the cell phone at issue and that she listed its number on the Do-Not-Call Registry.  Id. at 9.

On or around November 3, 2019, Defendants – who are digital content creators producing “sketch comedy” for an adolescent audience and selling merchandise that relates to their digital content – obtained the personal information for Plaintiff’s son and sent him at least five text messages between December 25, 2019, and June 29, 2020.  Id.  These texts specifically solicited business and offered discounts on products offered by Defendant Smosh Dot Com, Inc., which Plaintiff alleged was “irritating, exploitative, and invasive” and “precisely the type of communications she sought to avoid when she registered her number on the Do Not Call [R]egistry.”  Id.  Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint alleged that Defendants violated § 227(c) of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) by sending text messages to numbers listed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry.  Id. 

Defendants moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim and for lack of standing. They argued that Plaintiff lacked Article III standing because she failed to plead that she was the user of the phone or actually received any of the soliciting text messages from Defendants.  Id. at 6-7.  Specifically, Defendants argued that because she provided the phone to her son, Plaintiff was not the actual user of the phone or the actual recipient of the messages and, therefore, did not suffer an injury and was instead attempting to assert the legal right of a third party.  Id. at 9-10.  The district court granted the motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiff did not have Article III standing merely because she was the subscriber/owner of the phone while not addressing any of the merits issues.  Id. at 7.  Plaintiff appealed this ruling.  Id.

The Ninth Circuit’s Ruling

The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling.

It held that Plaintiff had Article III standing to bring the claims under the TCPA.  The Ninth Circuit noted that it was well established that unsolicited telemarketing phone calls or text messages in violation of the TCPA is a concrete injury in fact that, itself, is enough to confer Article III standing. It cited to Van Patten v. Vertical Fitness Grp., LLC, 847 F.3d 1037, 1043 (holding that “[u]nsolicited telemarketing phone calls or text messages, by their nature, invade the privacy and disturb the solitude of their recipients).  Id. at 8.  Importantly, the Ninth Circuit made clear that the relevant question for Article III standing is whether Plaintiff suffered a cognizable injury.  Id. at 12.  The Ninth Circuit reasoned that because a violation of the TCPA is a “concrete injury,” and the Do-Not-Call provisions of the TCPA proscribe unsolicited calls and text messages to phone numbers on the Do-Not-Call Registry, Plaintiff’s allegations that she received unsolicited text messages on a number on the registry were sufficient to confer standing.  Id.

To reach this holding, the Ninth Circuit found no precedent that the owner of a cell phone also must be the primary or customary user to be injured by unsolicited phone calls or text messages.  Id. at 13.  The Ninth Circuit reasoned that requiring a certain level of phone usage to be a prerequisite for standing would go against Congress’ intention of preventing individuals on the Do-Not-Call Registry from receiving unsolicited text messages.  Id.  The Ninth Circuit also opined that this holding would not prevent other users of the phone from bringing claims, as they may also suffer a concrete injury from an unwanted call or text message.  Id.

Importantly, the Ninth Circuit did not address the merits of Plaintiff’s claim, and refused to discuss Defendants’ contention that Plaintiff’s son solicited the text messages by signing up for telecommunications through an online form.  Id.  Instead, the Ninth Circuit held that, even if Plaintiff’s son solicited the messages, therefore affecting the merits of her claim, Plaintiff still had standing to bring her own claim by the virtue of her status as the subscriber and owner of the phone.  Id. at 14.  The Ninth Circuit additionally did not address the question of whether a subscriber would have Article III standing to litigate a TCPA claim if he or she authorized a third-party user to provide consent to a telemarketer, leaving that question open for the district court to discuss on remand.  Id. at 9.

Key Takeaways

The Ninth Circuit has now established that all that is required for Article III standing under the TCPA is the receipt of unsolicited text messages or phone calls to a number owned or subscribed to by an individual and found on the Do-Not-Call Registry, even if that individual is not the primary user of the phone.

This ruling curtails attacks on the pleadings by TCPA defendants, especially with the language included by the Ninth Circuit that standing is “not exclusive” and numerous subscribers/users can bring TCPA claims.  However, with the Ninth Circuit leaving open the question of whether a subscriber would have standing if he or she authorized a third-party user to provide consent to receive telemarketing, companies defending TCPA claims still may have a path forward to attacking standing for subscribers of phones on the Do-Not-Call Registry with third-party users.  Until then, companies should be cognizant that even if a phone user solicited communications by signing up for those communications, the phone subscriber will still have standing to bring a claim under the TCPA.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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