Judge Grants MSJ for Defendant on Hunstein Claim, Denies MSJ on TCPA ATDS Claim

There have been a number of rulings in Hunstein cases and a number of rulings in post-Facebook Telephone Consumer Protection Act cases, but rarely, if ever, has there been a ruling that addresses both of these landmark cases. A District Court judge in Tennessee has partially granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a case alleging that the defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by using a letter vendor to send collection notices to the plaintiff and the TCPA by contacting the plaintiff on her cell phone without her consent.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Stewart v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff incurred a debt to a medical facility related to visits to treat her child, a minor. The defendant, through a third party, mailed four letters to the plaintiff, which the plaintiff alleges to have never received until after filing her complaint. The defendant also obtained the plaintiff’s cell phone number — from its client when the account was placed. The cell phone number was listed on a consent form allegedly signed by the plaintiff.

Along with sending the letters, the defendant left 62 voicemail messages for the plaintiff using an artificial or prerecorded voice. Judge Aleta A. Trauger of the District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee opted to deny summary judgment motions from both the plaintiff and the defendant on the TCPA claim, ruling there was a genuine dispute over how the defendant came into possession of the plaintiff’s cell phone number given that the plaintiff denied signing a consent form authorizing the provider and its agents or collection agencies to contact her.

As for the Hunstein claim, Judge Trauger looked at rulings from other District Courts and agreed that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue. “… the plaintiff here does not allege or present facts suggesting that any actual person saw or read any private information concerning her or her daughter,” Judge Trauger wrote. “Stewart’s factual allegations and evidence do not show a public disclosure of private information. She has not, therefore, alleged an injury traditionally recognized in Tennessee or by other American courts. In addition, the court agrees that this type of exposure is not the type of ‘harm at which Congress was aiming’ in passing the FDCPA.”

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