Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) Plaintiffs Take Aim at the Sports World
Virtually every customer-facing industry has faced TCPA class actions and sports franchises are no exception. In the past few months, both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Buffalo Bills have settled TCPA suits that relate to text messages.
The Clippers recently agreed to settle a TCPA class action that relates to the alleged dissemination of promotional text messages without the requisite consent. Specifically, inFriedman v. LAC Basketball Club Inc., No. 13-0818 (C.D. Cal.), the plaintiff claimed that he received promotional messages after he sent the team a text message that he wanted it to display on its scoreboard during a game.
Does this fact pattern sound somewhat familiar? If so that’s because it resembles a case that was filed in the same court against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012. That action, captioned Emanuel v. The Los Angeles Lakers Inc., No. 12-9936 (C.D. Cal.), challenged a confirmatory text message (rather than promotional messages) sent after the plaintiff initiated a text message to the team during a game. The court dismissed the Lakers suit in April 2013 based upon a “common sense” reading of the statute. The plaintiff abandoned his Ninth Circuit appeal after reaching an individual settlement with the team.
Under the terms of the proposed Clippers settlement, which has been valued at up to $5 million, each class member would receive either two tickets to a home game in October 2014, or one ticket to the game and a $20 merchandise credit for Clippers apparel to be redeemed at the stadium store or online. The plaintiffs’ counsel would receive fees and costs of up to $600,000. The Clippers also agreed “not to send text messages without express consent for two years.” The motion for final approval of the settlement was filed on June 2, 2014, and is pending.
The Buffalo Bills also reached a settlement in a TCPA putative class action, captionedWojcik v. Buffalo Bills Inc., No. 12-2414 (M.D. Fla.), that includes up to $2.5 million worth of debit cards redeemable for Bills merchandise. The plaintiff alleged that he signed up to receive a maximum of five text messages per week but that the team exceeded this limit by sending him six texts during one week and seven texts a few weeks later. The complaint stated that “[t]he Buffalo Bills website, terms and conditions, and confirmatory text message all unequivocally state that the subscribers consent to and will be limited to the receipt of no more than five text messages during any one week period.” The settlement provides for debit cards worth $57.50, $65 or $75 that may be redeemed at the team’s store or on its website. The plaintiffs’ counsel would receive $562,500 in fees and costs. On April 17, 2014, the court granted the motion for preliminary approval of the settlement and scheduled a fairness hearing to take place on August 20, 2014.
While these two cases are close to being resolved, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently defending against two lawsuits in the Middle District of Florida alleging that the franchise violated the statute through the dissemination of unsolicited fax advertisements promoting ticket sales. Cin-Q Automobiles, Inc. v. Buccaneers Limited Partnership, No. 13-1592 (M.D. Fla.) and Accounting To You, Inc. v. Buccaneers Limited Partnership, No. 13-2929 (M.D. Fla.). A similar action, filed in 2009, was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction when the defendant made a successful Rule 68 offer of judgment prior to the filing of a motion for class certification.