Judge Grants MTD in TCPA Case Because Collectors Don’t Call Random Numbers

In a case that was first reported by Eric Troutman at TCPAWorld.com, a District Court judge in Illinois has granted a collection agency’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, ruling that there is “no plausible explanation” why a debt collector would use a random or sequential number generator to try and collect on a debt.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Mosley v. General Revenue Corp. can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff accused the defendant of contacting her multiple times with pre-recroded messages, often leaving voicemail messages that were nothing but dead air, and sometimes threatening to take legal action over unpaid debts, even though the plaintiff had no prior knowledge of owing a debt to the defendant. She filed suit, alleging the defendant violated the TCPA by using an automated telephone dialing system to call her cell phone without her prior consent.

Astute readers will have already noted that this case is being tried in Illinois, which resides in the Seventh Circuit. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is one of the handful of courts that have weighed in on the TCPA’s ATDS definition, in Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc. The TCPA defines an ATDS as “equipment which has the capacity (A) to store or produce
telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.”

In Gadelhak, the Seventh Circuit ruled that “using a random or sequential number generator” modifies both “store” and “produce,” meaning either task must be completed for equipment to qualify as an ATDS.

Judge James Shadid of the District Court for the Central District of Illinois, asked the question that many collection agencies across the country have posed — why would a collection agency randomly call numbers in an attempt to collect on a debt? That does not seem like an effective way to try and get in touch with someone.

“Plaintiff offers no plausible explanation why a debt collection company would need or use a machine which had the capacity to dial or store randomly or sequentially generated numbers,” Judge Shadid wrote in granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss. “It is far more likely that a telemarketing company, bank, or other seller of goods would desire to have machines with the capacity to dial randomly or sequentially generated numbers. With no other reason, such as the nature of the company, to lean on for a plausibility argument, the fact that the device used might have had the capability to use randomly generated number systems fails to be more than a speculative possibility.”

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