A Telephone Consumer Protection Act plaintiff who alleged that prerecorded messages "disrupted, inconvenienced, and agitated him" satisfied the standing requirement to avoid dismissal of his putative class action.

Dustin Holderread filed suit against Ford Motor Credit Company in March, claiming the company made multiple calls to his cell phone without consent and left prerecorded messages that indicated the calls were for a third party. Holderread alleged that he spoke with a live agent at least once and requested that the calls stop, but they continued.

According to the complaint, the calls "disrupted, inconvenienced, and agitated" the plaintiff "because (a) they were not for him, and (b) there was no person to speak to when he answered to demand that the calls stop."

Ford responded with a motion to dismiss based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this year in Spokeo v. Robins. It argued that Holderread failed to plead a concrete injury caused by the calls and had no standing to maintain his suit.

But U.S. District Court Judge Amos L. Mazzant disagreed.

"A concrete injury must be real and not abstract," he wrote. "But a concrete injury can be tangible or intangible." A TCPA violation can cause intangible, concrete harm, the court added, noting that the harm caused by unwanted phone calls is closely related to an invasion of privacy, "which is a widely recognized common law tort."

By enacting the TCPA, "Congress identified the intangible harm of invasion of privacy as legally cognizable," Judge Mazzant said. "Considering this history and Congress's judgment, the Court finds an invasion of privacy within the context of the TCPA constitutes a concrete harm that meets the injury-in-fact requirements."

The plaintiff's complaint therefore satisfied the standing requirements, the court concluded.

"Holderread has alleged an intangible form of concrete harm under Spokeo," the judge wrote. "Holderread alleges that Ford's calls 'disrupted, inconvenienced, and agitated' him, woke him and disrupted his sleep. He also alleges he did not consent to Ford's calls, stating the calls annoyed him because (a) the calls were not for him, and (b) there was no person to speak to when he answered to demand that the calls stop. Therefore, the Court determines that Holderread has pleaded sufficient facts for his TCPA action to survive a … motion to dismiss."

To read the memorandum opinion and order in Holderread v. Ford Motor Credit Co., click here.

Why it matters: TCPA defendants have seen mixed results from the application of Spokeo. While some courts have taken the "concrete injury" language of the decision to apply a heightened standard of injury in fact (such as a California court that ruled the plaintiff must demonstrate she suffered a concrete injury for each individual call she alleged violated the statute), others have followed a path similar to the Texas federal court, which emphasizes that by enacting the TCPA, Congress affirmed that violations of the statute can cause intangible yet concrete harm.