After a Telephone Consumer Protection Act defendant made a settlement offer of more than the plaintiff could recover in the litigation, a Minnesota federal court judge granted its motion for summary judgment.
Sandusky Wellness Center sued Medtox Scientific for sending a junk fax advertising lead testing services in violation of the TCPA. In response, Medtox made a two-part settlement offer: a check for $3,500 and a promise to not “send another facsimile to plaintiff in the future unless plaintiff specifically requests that Medtox do so.”
The next day, Medtox filed a motion to dismiss the suit.
But the court denied the motion, pointing out that Sandusky asserted class claims and the settlement offer did not provide classwide relief. However, the court then denied Sandusky’s motion for class certification, limiting the case to the single fax from Medtox.
On cross-motions for summary judgment, the second time proved to be the charm for the defendant, as U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty dismissed the case.
“The offer provides complete relief to Sandusky,” the judge wrote, noting that federal courts “do not sit simply to bestow vindication in a vacuum. . . . As a result, dismissal of Sandusky’s claim is warranted as moot.”
Judge Doty disagreed with the plaintiff’s argument that Medtox’s offer was insufficient.
Not only did the offer provide complete monetary relief, the “$3,500 offer exceeds Sandusky’s possible statutory recovery of $500 and the taxable costs it has incurred,” the court said, as the plaintiff had conceded that it was not entitled to recover attorneys’ fees or trebled damages.
Further, “the offer provides the equitable relief sought by Sandusky, namely the promise to refrain from sending such faxes to Sandusky in the future,” the judge wrote. The plaintiff’s position that the injunctive relief was inadequate because it was not in the form of court-ordered injunctive relief was unfounded, he said.
“If Medtox sends an unsolicited fax advertisement to Sandusky in the future, Sandusky may sue under the TCPA and may well be entitled to treble damages under such circumstances,” Judge Doty said. “The court nevertheless will include Medtox’s promise to refrain from future solicitations in this order to ensure that Sandusky has meaningful legal recourse in the context of this case.”
As no case or controversy remained, the court granted summary judgment for the defendant.
To read the order in Sandusky Wellness Center v. Medtox Scientific, click here.
Why it matters: While the defendant’s first attempt at getting the case dismissed based on the settlement offer failed, the deal proved fruitful when coupled with the court’s denial of class certification. Other TCPA defendants considering similar action should note the court’s approval that the deal covered more than the possible financial recovery and costs for the plaintiff and included injunctive relief.