Judge Grants Stay in TCPA Case Against Collector

A District Court judge in Washington, D.C., has granted a collection agency’s request for a stay in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act case pending the outcome of a Supreme Court case that will seek to define how an Automated Telephone Dialing System is defined under the statute.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Johnson v. Harris & Harris can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff filed his lawsuit last year alleging he was contacted on his cell phone by the defendant “repeatedly” while it used an ATDS in violation of the TCPA. He also claimed the defendant violated the TCPA by using an artificial or prerecorded voice and that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and a debt collection law in Washington, D.C.

Noting that a ruling from the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in Facebook v. Duguid in December, should be released in the next few months, Judge Dabney Freidrich of the District Court for the District of Columbia said there was little reason not to stay the case, even if there are claims from the plaintiff that have nothing to do with the ATDS question.

The expectation, Judge Freidrich noted in her ruling is that the Supreme Court ruling will “settle some outstanding issues and simplify others,” while also potentially “shape the contours” of the remaining discovery to be completed.

Duguid sued Facebook after he received text messages regarding suspicious attempts to access his account with the social media giant. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Facebook, largely using the definition of an ATDS that it set in Marks v. Crunch San Diego. Under that definition, an ATDS is any device that has the capacity to store numbers to be called, which the groups argue “significantly alters congressional language” of the TCPA. Facebook appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

When asked for comment about the stay, Ari Derman, the General Counsel and Director of Legal Services at Harris & Harris, said, “At H&H we always strive to communicate in a respectful and legally compliant manner with all customers and are confident we did so in the instant case. Still, we are of course pleased with the granting of the stay order by Judge Friedrich in response to our motion. Judicial economy will be enhanced and critical legal issues will be simplified by the Duguid case, not just for our matter but for the industry at large. We thank our attorneys at Hinshaw & Culbertson and the Law Offices of Ronald S. Canter for their assistance in securing this result, and stand with our industry partners in eagerly awaiting ATDS clarity from the Supreme Court.”

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