On January 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a defendant accused of violating the TCPA after allegedly using an automatic telephone dialing system (autodialer). The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s platform qualifies as an autodialer since it “stores telephone numbers using a sequential number generator because it uploads a customer’s list of numbers and produces them to be dialed in the same order they were provided, i.e., sequentially.” According to the 9th Circuit, the plaintiff’s interpretation would mean that “virtually any system” with the capability to store a pre-produced list of telephone numbers would qualify as an autodialer if it could also autodial the stored numbers. The court noted that this interpretation was rejected in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in Facebook Inc. v. Duguid, which narrowed the definition of what type of equipment qualifies as an autodialer under the TCPA and held that an autodialer “must have the capacity either to store a telephone number using a random or sequential generator or to produce a telephone number using a using a random or sequential number generator.” (Covered by a Buckley Special Alert here.)

The plaintiff attempted to rely on a footnote in the Court’s ruling, which endeavored to explain why the terms “produce” and “store” were used in the definition of an autodialer, but the 9th Circuit concluded that the footnote discussion was not central to the Court’s analysis in Duguid and therefore did not require it to adopt the plaintiff’s interpretation. After finding that the defendant’s system does not qualify as an autodialer “merely because it stores pre-produced lists of telephone numbers in the order in which they are uploaded,” the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff’s TCPA claims failed. It further determined that even if Duguid did not foreclose the plaintiff’s argument, the district court was correct to conclude that the system at issue “does not have the capacity to automatically dial telephone numbers.”