Another Court Dismisses TCPA Claims for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Holding Single Phone Call Does Not Confer Standing

Smith v. Altima Medical Equipment, Inc., Case No. Ed CV 16-00339-AB (DTBx) (C.D. Cal. Jul. 29, 2016)

Plaintiff filed a TCPA class action lawsuit based on a single telephone call regarding the sale of medical equipment, claiming harm to herself and the class in the form of "multiple involuntary telephone and electrical charges, the aggravation, nuisance, and invasion of privacy that necessarily accompanies the receipt of unsolicited and harassing telephone calls, and violations of their statutory rights." Defendant moved to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rules 12(b)(1)- (subject matter jurisdiction/standing) and 12(b)(6)-(failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). The Court held dismissal was appropriate on both grounds, granting the Motion with Prejudice.

Addressing the issue of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court noted the three requirements to establish standing: (1) Proof Plaintiff experienced an injury in fact; (2) that is fairly traceable to Defendant; and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision, focusing on the first element of proof - injury in fact. Citing Spokeo, Inc. v. Robbins, 136 SCt. 1540 (2016), the Court noted that "'[t]o establish injury in fact, a plaintiff must show that he or she suffered 'an invasion of a legally protected interest' that is concrete and particularized' and 'actual and imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.'" A concrete injury is a real injury that actually exists. It is not abstract; yet, to be concrete, the injury need not be tangible. History and the judgment of Congress play important roles in determining whether intangible harms constitute injury in fact. But while Congress can elevate injuries to be legally recognizable by statute, "'Congress' role in identifying and elevating intangible harms does not mean that a plaintiff automatically satisfies the injury-in-fact requirement whenever a statute grants a person a statutory right.'" A plaintiff cannot allege a procedural violation absent concrete harm.

Defendant argued that the tangible and intangible harms Plaintiff alleged in the Complaint were conclusory, only bare statutory violations, which is insufficient to establish standing. While agreeing that detail was lacking from Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court focused on whether Plaintiff's alleged harm resulting from a single phone call was sufficient to confer standing. Addressing Plaintiff's claimed damage of "charges," the Court initially noted Plaintiff did not provide any detail as to what "charges" means, or the amount incurred, adding that:

the receipt of one phone call, as alleged by Plaintiff, is comparable to the receipt of a text message and any drainage of battery from a single call is surely minimal [. . .] At most, the phone call lasted for a few seconds. Any depletion of Plaintiff's battery or aggravation and nuisance, resulting from only one call, is a de minimis injury. The Court finds that "[t]he injury is too de minimis to satisfy the standing doctrine's core aim of improving judicial decision-making by ensuring that there is a specific controversy before the court and that there is an advocate with sufficient personal concern to effectively litigate the matter."

A copy of the opinion can be viewed here.

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