Judge dismisses class action against Comcast involving business class contract dispute

By Jon Campisi | May 23, 2013

A U.S. District Judge in Philadelphia recently dismissed a class action complaint against

Comcast that had been filed on behalf of a class of Comcast Business Class Service customers who had claimed the cable giant violated contract terms with the plaintiffs by charging them early termination and Internet equipment fees.

In a May 17 memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois, sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the litigation, writing that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to handle the case.

The plaintiffs, Datascope Analytics LLC, Hansen IP Law PLLC and Robbie Simmons, filed their class action complaint on Feb. 1 of this year, nearly two months after they filed a near identical suit in the Northern District of Illinois, the record shows.

Before the plaintiffs had filed their motion to certify the class in that case, which was filed in early December of last year, however, Comcast reached out to the plaintiffs’ attorneys and offered “full and complete relief,” which included $635.70 to Datascope, which was the amount paid for services from the time it alleged it would have cancelled its service until the time it actually cancelled the service; $337 for Hansen IP Law, which was the early termination fee it had paid; and $134.88 to plaintiff Robbie Simmons, the amount he paid for services after he allegedly gave notice of his intent to cancel his Comcast account.

Simmons was also offered $12 for the additional equipment fees he alleged he was charged, the court record shows.

The three plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their Illinois federal case on Jan. 31 of this year, according to the record.

Comcast reached out to the plaintiffs’ attorneys the following day requesting information in order to process the payments, but the plaintiffs’ lawyers responded by saying they decided to refuse the settlement offer, and instead informed Comcast’s lawyers that an action had been filed at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia.

The plaintiffs desired to have a judge certify either a national class or, alternatively, a class made up of plaintiffs from Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.

Comcast filed a motion to dismiss on March 27, arguing that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because there is no case of controversy because the cable company offered complete relief to the plaintiffs prior to the filing of this case; two of the plaintiffs failed to properly allege their citizenship; the plaintiffs failed to sufficiently plead a breach of contract claim; and the plaintiffs’ demand for incidental, consequential or punitive damages must be stricken.

In his May 17 memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois wrote that because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, he doesn’t need to address the remaining arguments before denying class certification and closing the case.

DuBois essentially agreed with Comcast’s position that because the defendant had offered complete relief to the individual plaintiffs before the filing of both the class action complaint and the motion for class certification, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

The plaintiffs had contended that the court shouldn’t consider the Illinois action since that case was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice.

“Plaintiffs’ attempt to disregard the prior action in Illinois and to label the offer incomplete for failing to address potential class claims are unavailing,” DuBois wrote. “The controversy between the parties ended when defendant offered complete relief on January 18, 2013, and plaintiffs accordingly lacked standing to file the Class Complaint after that offer.”

The judge also ruled that Comcast is not required to address the potential class claims in order to moot the case.

“Therefore, since plaintiffs’ claims were mooted before the filing of the Class Complaint and Motion for Class Certification, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and the Class Complaint must be dismissed.”

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