TCPA Plaintiff Could Not Get Away with Forum Shopping Antics
As a well-known fact and sad reality in the TCPAWorld, the outcome of a TCPA action depends largely on where the suit is taking place. By now, the TCPAWorld residents are so used to see various “creative” arguments and claims by plaintiffs, just to get their case filed in a favorable forum.
Fortunately, many courts simply do not tolerate forum shopping. And same here with the Michigan Court in Garcia v. Us, Case No. 2:19-cv-12750, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91870 (E.D. Mich. May 26, 2020).
Plaintiff, a Florida resident, initially filed the case in the Southern District of Florida alleging violation of the TCPA by the defendant based on one prerecorded message to plaintiff’s cellular telephone. See Garcia v. FCA, No. 1:18-cv-23223-FAM (S.D. Fla. Aug. 8, 2018).
The Florida District Court stayed the case pending the outcome of Salcedo v. Hanna, 936 F.3d 1162 (11th Cir. 2019), which resulted in the landmark decision by the Eleventh Circuit that a single text message sent to a plaintiff’s cellphone in violation of the TCPA does not “meet the injury-in-fact requirement of the Article III.” (Id. at 1172.) (A full analysis of the Salcedo decision by the Archduke of the Realm can be found here.)
Unsurprisingly, immediately following the Salcedo opinion, Garcia voluntarily dismissed the case. Nevertheless, only ten days later, the defendant found itself in court again with the same plaintiff and the same complaint, but this time, in the Eastern district of Michigan.
Well, for Garcia, surely the Michigan Court would be a more favorable forum, where an invasion of privacy within the context of the TCPA constitutes a concrete harm that meets the Article III’s injury-in-fact requirements. But an identical complaint in ten days? Really?
The defendant field motion to transfer to Southern District of Florida, where Garcia dismissed the prior case after the unfavorable decision. Upon analysis and in the interest of justice, the Michigan Court determined that all factors weighed in favor of transfer and thus granted the motion.
Well, I recognize that plaintiffs have their freedom to shop for a forum. In fact, forum shopping is a long-time practice that has been encouraged by the federal jurisdiction doctrines. However, we should always be mindful that this system is one of checks and balances, and everything has its pay-off.