Tennessee District Court Denies Husband and Wife's Request for TCPA Class Certification on Alleged Calls to Collect Debt on Husband's Account

Drozdowski v. Citibank, Inc., 2:15-cv-02786-STA-cgc (Aug. 31, 2016)

Husband and wife Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against Defendant regarding calls allegedly made to Plaintiffs' cell phones to collect debt owed on the husband's account after Plaintiffs purportedly revoked consent to be contacted. Defendant filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration, contending that Plaintiffs' claims had to be arbitrated on an individual, non-class basis. At issue were four credit card accounts, three of which belonged to the husband, one of which belonged to the wife and all of which included arbitration provisions.

Plaintiffs made several arguments in opposition to the Motion to Compel Arbitration, all of which were rejected by the Court. For example, Plaintiffs argued that it was improper to rely on exemplar credit card agreements in support of the Motion to Compel Arbitration. The Court noted, however, that Defendant authenticated the exemplars and Plaintiffs failed to identify any evidence showing that the exemplars were not the same as the agreements entered into by Plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs also argued that the wife's TCPA claims could not be arbitrated because they fell outside of the scope of the Arbitration Provision. Specifically, the wife argued that because calls did not relate to her credit card account, and she was not an authorized user for the husband's account on which calls were allegedly made, she could not be compelled to arbitrate. The Court disagreed, at the outset, pointing to the Parties' agreement in the Arbitration Provision that whether claims are subject to arbitration shall be resolved by interpreting the Provision in the broadest way the law will allow, and that because the Arbitration Provision was broadly written, "only an express provision excluding a specific dispute, or the most forceful evidence of a purpose to exclude the claim from arbitration," would remove the dispute from consideration of the arbitrator. The Court went on to state:

Here, the underlying conduct for the alleged TCPA violation, i.e., [Defendant's] calls to [Plaintiff's] cell phone, relates to and implicates her relationship with [Defendant]. The Arbitration Agreement applies to any claim relating to "our relationship." Plaintiffs have not shown that [Plaintiff's] claim does not relate to her relationship with [Defendant] or that it falls outside the broad scope of the Arbitration Agreement.

Finally, the Court rejected Plaintiffs' argument Congress did not intend TCPA claims to be arbitrable given the Act's purpose and design. The Court noted that though Plaintiffs contended a class action is necessary to vindicate a large number of consumer's rights, they failed to identify any right created by the TCPA that would not be available in individual arbitration. Nor did they present any evidence to show that arbitration would be prohibitively expensive, or cite any cases holding that claims under the TCPA are non-arbitrable, whereas Defendant cited several cases rejecting Plaintiffs' argument.

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