Court Dismisses Lawsuit by Serial Litigant Against TCPA Litigator List
With its potential for lucrative statutory damages, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) attracts serial litigants like moths to a flame. In response, some businesses are trying to help callers avoid calling numbers associated with serial litigants by providing serial litigator lists.
Blindbid, Inc., operating as TCPA Litigator List, is one such company that notifies callers about serial litigants that file lawsuits under consumer protection statutes, in particular under the TCPA.
In November 2018, BlindBid Inc. posted the following on Twitter: “James Shelton out of Pennsylvania is one of the most aggressive TCPA litigators. He has even frozen bank accounts. Do not call him.”
In response to this alert, Mr. Shelton demanded that Blinbid provide him with a copy of his consumer report, and that Blindbid identify each person or company that obtained his consumer report from Blindbid. Blindbid refused both requests. Wonder what happened next? Mr. Shelton sued BlindBid for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.
Yes, this actually happened: A person who really doesn’t like getting robocalls just sued a company that literally helps callers avoid calling people who really don’t like getting robocalls.
However, the court in Shelton v. Blindbid Inc., No. 1:19CV1205, 2019 WL 4451376 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 17, 2019) recently dismissed Mr. Shelton’s claims based upon a lack of Article III standing to sue. Relying on Spokeo v. Robbins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, the Court found that Plaintiff’s allegation that he suffered actual damages as a result of BlindBid’s alleged refusal to acquiesce to Mr. Shelton’s demands for his consumer report “f[ell] below the necessary threshold for Article III standing.” Moreover, the court stated that Plaintiff’s allegation that his reputation was damaged, and that he was injured by an invasion of privacy are not causally related to the alleged violations of FCRA. Specifically, not providing the documents requested by Plaintiff “did not injure Plaintiff’s reputation nor intrude upon his privacy.” Based upon its finding of a lack of standing, the court granted Blindbid’s Motion to Dismiss as to Mr. Shelton’s FCRA claim and remanded the remaining Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act back to state court.
Known litigator lists provide helpful tools for callers to avoid becoming ensnared in a serial litigant’s TCPA lawsuit. It is the opinion of the authors that the fact businesses like BlindBid are being sued for warning callers not to call these individuals probably means they’re doing something right.