After 5 years of choppy waters, cruise companies settle TCPA class action

High Tide

Philip Chavrat lives in landlocked Columbus, Ohio, but he alleges that he received a flood of telemarketing calls from Travel Services, a marketing company working on behalf of well-known cruise companies Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. Chavrat claims he received four separate calls between February 2011 and July 2012, some manned by live representatives and others featuring prerecorded messages.

According to Chavrat, neither he nor anyone in his family had given consent for the calls.

Chavrat filed his original complaint against the telemarketing company and the cruise lines in July 2012 on behalf of himself and a putative class of similarly situated individuals. As the case proceeded, it eventuallynarrowed to plead alleged violations of the prerecorded calls provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), seeking injunctive relief and the standard TCPA-mandated damages award of $500 to $1,500 per call.

Rough Seas

The case was tumultuous, lasting five years and involving three amended complaints, briefings amounting to more than 3,000 pages, and frequently challenged and interrupted discovery comprising 30 discovery hearings and 15 depositions in four states.

The case slammed to a halt in April 2013, when the litigation was stayed pending a decision from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC was debating whether plaintiffs could sue for vicarious liability under the TCPA for calls that the defendants did not initiate. This was relevant to the case because Mr. Chavrat was seeking to hold both the telemarketer and the cruise lines, which did not place the calls themselves, liable. When the Commission ruled in favor of vicarious liability, the case was revived.

The Takeaway

The Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, approved a motion to settle the case in late July 2017. The settlement established a fund containing $7 million to $12.5 million, varying by the number of claims filed, to cover reimbursements to class members who could demonstrate that their phone numbers appeared in call records produced in discovery. Chavrat received an incentive award, and court costs and attorney fees were included in the final agreement.