Telephone Consumer Protection Act
PHILADELPHIA – A King of Prussia man has just collected a $33,000 payday in a Philadelphia federal court - the latest triumph in his history of litigation brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Per a May 8 decision from U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Chad F. Kenney, plaintiff James Everett Shelton was awarded the $33,000 amount in connection with a TCPA lawsuit he filed against Fast Advance Funding, LLC, a New York-based lending firm which offers loans to businesses.
Though he usually represents himself in court, Shelton had the assistance of a lawyer in this case. The lawyer will likely be taking a percentage of the $33,000.
Since 2016, James Everett Shelton has filed 29 cases in courts around the country, alleging he has been the target of numerous unwanted telephone solicitations from a variety of businesses.
In 18 of them, he has received either a settlement or default judgment, three were withdrawn or voluntarily dismissed by Shelton himself and eight remain pending. All in all, Shelton has been awarded $100,000 in default and stipulated judgments (though collecting default judgments can be difficult), and he’s also reached several confidential settlements.
Now he can add another $33,000 to the pile.
TCPA trials are rare. Defendants often choose to settle rather than risk an adverse trial verdict – particularly when the plaintiff files a class action.
Recently, in Philadelphia federal court, Shelton was pitted against Fast Advance Funding. Shelton claimed that even after registering his cell phone number onto a national “Do Not Call” list in June 2015, he began receiving calls from Fast Advance at his number in March 2018, and it continued through April and May of that year.
“Plaintiff was harmed by these calls. Plaintiff was temporarily deprived of legitimate use of his phone because the phone line was tied up during the telemarketing calls, and his privacy was improperly invaded,” Shelton’s lawsuit said.
“Moreover, these calls injured plaintiff because they were frustrating, obnoxious, annoying, were a nuisance and disturbed the solitude of plaintiff. The calls caused plaintiff’s cell phone battery’s depletion, used up cellular data, and prevented plaintiff from otherwise using his telephone for lawful purposes.”
In both recent trial proceedings and in the published opinion, Kenney took Fast Advance to task for what he called its lack of participation in the discovery process.
“Throughout this litigation, defendant Fast Advance has failed to participate in discovery. Significantly, defendant never responded plaintiff’s requests for admission, which plaintiff propounded on defendant on Feb. 11, 2019,” Kenney said.
“If defendant had responded to these requests for admission, or participated in discovery in any way, the Court would have been able to structure the case for trial. Instead, defendant was disengaged. In the weeks leading up to trial, this Court was required to email defendant’s counsel multiple times, including sending a letter via mail directly to defendant Fast Advance, to ensure that it had representation present for trial.”
The TCPA provides damages in the amount of $500 per phone call, or $1,500 per call for more egregious violations.
“As there were 22 phone calls made in violation of the TCPA, plaintiff is able to receive $500 per phone call violation. Because the Court has found that these violations were willful and knowing, plaintiff is entitled to receive $1,500 per phone call, pursuant to 47 U.S.C. Section 227(c)(5)(C),” Kenney said.
It’s been a busy few weeks for Shelton, who received judicial orders in two of his other cases in April. The main issue is standing, as defendants cite the decision in the case of Melody Stoops.
Stoops, in Pittsburgh federal court, admitted she bought more than 30 phones to assign Florida area codes to in the hopes that debt collectors would call them to reach the previous owner of the number.
The judge in that case ruled she didn’t have standing to sue as she was not harmed – she sought those calls, and those calls happened.
In Shelton’s case filed in Philadelphia federal court against Target Advance, LLC, U.S. District Court Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro ruled on April 16 that his claims made under the TCPA’s “Sales Call/DNC” prohibition were dismissed due to lack of standing. Two weeks earlier, Shelton received a favorable ruling that allowed another of his cases to proceed past the standing argument.
Among the notable judgments Shelton has received are $6,000 and $12,000 default judgments that have been satisfied, as well as a stipulated judgment of $21,430 in a Philadelphia case against Merchant Source Inc. and two individuals.
Also, following a default judgment of $37,000, Shelton settled for a confidential amount with Green Star Capital Solutions in a Montgomery County case.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:18-cv-02071
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org