Trial Court Fails to Provide a Written Opinion, Second Circuit Upholds Dismissal of TCPA Claim Anyway
Normally a party denied his day in court receives a written opinion explaining why his claim fails. Not so for Mr. Todd Bank, an attorney proceeding pro se on a TCPA Complaint in front of Judge William F. Kuntz, II of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. See Bank v. Alarm.com Holdings, Inc., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 29620 (2d Cir. Sept. 16, 2020).
As recounted by the Second Circuit, Mr. Bank alleged that “Alarm.com partnered with a network of third-party authorized security-system dealers . . . to sell and market home security systems.” Id. at *2. He also alleged that he had received “‘dozens’ of pre-recorded telephone calls from a ‘robotic-sounding voice’ that failed to state the name of the person on whose behalf the call was placed.” Id. Mr. Bank, however, failed to “otherwise describe the content of those phone calls.” Id. And Alarm.com moved to dismiss Mr. Bank’s complaint for failure to state a claim, which the Court granted without “a written order, opinion, or otherwise provid[ing] any reason for its decision.” Id. at *3.
The Second Circuit affirmed, explaining first that Mr. Bank did not receive any “special solicitude” for his pro se status because he “is a lawyer.” Id. The Second Circuit also rejected Mr. Bank’s argument that the trial court erred by failing to provide a written opinion: “[T]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure expressly do not require district courts to provide reasoning when they decide Rule 12 motions.” Id. Though the Second Circuit panel explained that “the better practice, and the norm in this Circuit, is for the district courts to provide at least some explanation when dismissing a complaint,” the district court did not err. Id. Further, Mr. Bank waived his other arguments on appeal because he improperly tried to “incorporate [the arguments] by reference” to his district court briefing. Id. Finally, on the merits Mr. Bank’s claims failed because “he did not allege that Alarm.com is liable for, or even connect to, the harm of which he complains” and so he “failed to state a claim.” Id.
A TCPA complaint that does not allege any harm by the company sued may receive a dismissal without an opinion. And that’s just fine.