TCPA Lawsuits Proves Brisk Business for One "Professional Plaintiff"

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TCPA Lawsuits Proves Brisk Business for One "Professional Plaintiff"

September 12, 2016

When Forbes calls someone a “professional plaintiff” in a headline, there's clearly a reason to take notice. For Melody Stoops, who admitted she was in the “business” of engaging in Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) lawsuits, the appellation may not be too far wrong. Though this may seem outlandish, there are some vital lessons to learn here for businesses about how important it is to engage in telemarketing and call recording behaviors appropriately and correctly.

Stoops detailed how she had at least 35 different pre-paid cell phones, storing the bulk of them in a shoebox when not specifically in use. Inevitably, corporations—ranging from Credit One to Wells Fargo and beyond—would call the numbers in question, and Stoops would sometimes answer, sometimes tell the caller not to call again, and always, always log the calls. Stoops would then take the log to court, and sue the companies in question as violators of the TCPA.

Since the TCPA in its current form actively prohibits calls from being made without the written consent of those on the other end of the call—with damages ranging from between $500 and $1,500 per violation—there's a basis in legality for such an operation. Further, Stoops can argue that not only has her privacy been violated, but she's also been economically damaged, as pre-pay phones require users to buy minutes for the devices. Answering calls requires minutes be consumed, and thus, the businesses calling have directly cost the caller money.

With the bulk of TCPA suits moving from junk faxes to robocalls, the landscape is changing, and that includes how the TCPA is being regarded. One such attempt was shut down in a June 24 order from Judge Kim R. Gibson, which referred to Spokeo v. Robins, noting that an injury must affect the plaintiff in a “...personal and individual way.” This in turn is raising some unnerving questions about what actually qualifies someone to seek damages under the TCPA.

Once, it was enough to claim injury just by receiving a call, but based on what's been said here, now it seems that there's a new and much less clear standard for what qualifies as an injury under TCPA. I hasten to admit that I'm not a lawyer, so looking at it it seems that the subsequent legal actions has diminished regular people's ability to seek resolve under the TCPA. Granted, Stoops' example isn't a great one—phones purchased for the express purpose of serving as some kind of legal live-trap isn't exactly what anyone expected—but if there's some new and more difficult standard for “proving damage,” that makes it more difficult for anyone to get satisfaction here.

It's worth shoring things up; after all, companies should have the opportunity to clear up their own lists for those who don't want calls. Yet making it tougher for regular people to seek damages by meeting some new and unclear standard of injury doesn't help things either. 

Edited by Alicia Young

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