The United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan recently denied a motion filed by Caribbean Cruise Lines, Inc. (“Caribbean”) to dismiss a class action complaint alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the “TCPA”) and Michigan law. The Court granted the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction filed by Caribbean’s owner.
A Sinking Ship: Caribbean is Subject to the Court’s Jurisdiction and the Complaint Survives Dismissal
The class action complaint alleges that Caribbean contacted consumers through the transmission of pre-recorded messages to their residential and cellular telephones without prior express written consent for the purpose of soliciting the sale of a cruise. It further alleges that Caribbean’s owner is liable for any purported TCPA violations because he is an officer of the company and caused the subject calls to be made. Both defendants filed motions to dismiss, arguing that the class action should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, failure to state a claim and failure to adequately plead a basis for maintaining a class action lawsuit.
The Court analyzed whether Caribbean was subject to personal jurisdiction in Michigan, and held that because the complaint sufficiently pled that Caribbean’s agent contacted Michigan residents at their respective residences and on their cell phones, Caribbean was subject to the Court’s jurisdiction for purposes of the action.
The Court also considered whether the named plaintiff had standing to sue Caribbean on behalf of a class of consumers who received calls to their cellular telephones, because he was only contacted via his residential landline telephone. The Court held that the class action claim “should not be dismissed at this point” because the merits of the claim “should not be confused with the requirements necessary to maintain a class action lawsuit.” Because standing is a fundamental issue that goes to the heart of the action at its outset – whether a plaintiff even has the right to bring the action – the Court’s brief analysis and holding appear to be misguided. Simply, how can a named plaintiff who was never contacted via his cell phone represent (and ultimately recover damages on behalf of) a potentially huge class of consumers nationwide who were?
A Life Jacket: Caribbean’s Owner Escapes from Personal Liability
While the Court held that it has jurisdiction over Caribbean for purposes of the action, the Court held that it could not exercise its jurisdiction over Caribbean’s owner. In fact, the complaint only referenced the owner specifically on three occasions by identifying him as an officer of the company who caused the subject calls to be made. As we have reported, corporate officers may be held liable for TCPA violations in certain circumstances.
The Court opined that in order to state a claim, the plaintiff needed to assert that Caribbean’s owner was actively and personally involved in the actual conduct giving rise to the claim. It failed to do so. In support of his motion to dismiss, Caribbean’s owner submitted a sworn declaration that stated that he had no contacts with Michigan or the plaintiff, and that Caribbean did not make the calls that formed the basis of the action (a third party agent did). The Court held that the complaint contained insufficient facts to keep Caribbean’s owner in the case because the allegation that he “caused” the calls to be made was too conclusory and was, simply, unsupported.
The class action will now continue against Caribbean alone.
If you are interested in ensuring that you are compliant with current TCPA regulations, or if you are facing TCPA class action litigation, please e-mail us at [email protected], or call us at (212) 246-0900.
The material contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor is it a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney. Each situation is unique, and you should not act or rely on any information contained herein without seeking the advice of an experienced attorney.