PLAINTIFF FAILED TO ALLEGE TCPA CLAIM: Small Victory For Capital Link Management
Hi TCPAWorld and Happy Halloween! The Baroness here. Back to provide the latest and greatest of TCPA news.
But first, let’s talk about the opening of our new Florida office and addition of Jenniffer to the firm. The Troutman Firm is so excited to be growing and it has only been 6 months!? I can’t wait to see the growth we will have in a year.
Now, back to news.
I have a very straightforward case for you all.
A bit of background – Defendant Capital Link Management, LLC purchased a debt Plaintiff Ronald Ingraham owed on a loan from a company called Green Gate Services, LLC. Capital Link knew the debt was unenforceable and illegal because it originated from an unlicensed online lender which originated loans at interest rates in excess of 600% which were not enforceable against Florida residents. To seek payment of the debt, Capital Link contacted Ronald at least 5 times.
Ronald filed suit against Capital Link asserting, amongst others, violations of the TCPA.
Facts you need to know – Capital Link was properly served by a registered agent but failed to respond to the Complaint. Accordingly, the clerk entered a default judgment against Capital Link and Ronald filed a motion for final default judgment, seeking statutory damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), a court is authorized to enter default judgment against a defendant who fails to plead or otherwise defend. But, “before entering a default judgment for damages, the district court must ensure that the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint, which are taken as true due to the default, actually state a substantive cause of action and that there is a substantive, sufficient basis in the pleadings for the particular relief sought.” Tyco Fire & Sec., LLC v. Alcocer, 218 F. App’x 860, 863 (11th Cir. 2007). In other words, “a default judgment cannot stand on a complaint that fails to state a claim.” Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1370 n.41 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted).
The Court found that the Complaint failed to sufficiently allege a violation of the TCPA and therefore, default judgment was not appropriate for Ronald’s claims arising under the TCPA—definitely a win for Capital Link!
Under the TCPA, it Is “unlawful…to make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice…to any telephone number…, unless such call is made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii).
Ronald’s Complaint, however, failed to set out any facts to support a claim that the calls were made using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice. As such, the Court denied in part, Plaintiff’s motion for final default judgment as to his TCPA claim.
The Court’s reasoning makes sense to me.