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Christopher Johansen v. Vivant

December 18, 2012

CHRISTOPHER JOHANSEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VIVANT, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Marvin E. Aspen

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge:

Plaintiff Christopher Johansen ("Plaintiff" or "Johansen"), individually and on behalf of a proposed class of similarly-situated plaintiffs, filed a one-count complaint against Defendant Vivint, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Vivint"), alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), 47 U.S.C. § 227 (2001), in the Circuit Court of Cook County.*fn1

Defendant timely removed. Presently before us is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 14), filed on October 12, 2012, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, we grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

We draw the following facts directly from the complaint and accept them as true for the purposes of the present motion. On two specific occasions in May and October 2011, Vivint called Johansen's cellular phone number using an automatic telephone dialing system and delivered pre-recorded voice messages without obtaining Plaintiff's permission prior to the calls. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Defendant placed "additional" such calls to Plaintiff at some later date. (Id.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the factual sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, we must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903(7th Cir. 2011). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires a plaintiff to include "a short and plain statement of the claim" that entitles him to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Consequently, a court may grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) only if the complaint lacks enough facts "to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949--50 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S. Ct. 1974 (2007)); Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A. 507 F.3d 614, 618--19 (7th Cir. 2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

Although a facially plausible complaint need not give "detailed factual allegations," it must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S. Ct. at 1964--65. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. These requirements ensure that a defendant receives "fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S. Ct. at 1964 (internal citation omitted).

ANALYSIS

TCPA prohibits calls made to cellular phones using "any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice." 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). The statute defines the term "automatic telephone dialing system" ("ATDS") as "equipment which has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and to dial such numbers." 47 U.S.C. § 227(a)(1)(A)--(B).

Defendant argues that Plaintiff: 1) "merely allege[s] legal conclusions about the use of an ATDS that simply mirror the language of the TCPA without providing any supporting factual allegations;" 2) does not specify whether the calls were made via an ATDS or were solely pre-recorded messages; and 3) does not allege "sufficient details regarding each call" he received from Vivint. (Mem. at 4, 6.) As a result, the deficiencies of the complaint fail to put Defendant on notice of the allegations against which it must defend. (Id.)

As Defendant's first argument requires some discussion, we dispose of its other arguments first. We do not find Defendant's second and third arguments persuasive. First, the complaint plainly states that Plaintiff received at least two pre-recorded messages delivered to his cellular phone number via an ATDS. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Defendant then is on notice that Plaintiff will seek to prove both that Defendant delivered a pre-recorded message to Plaintiff's cellular phone and that it delivered that pre-recorded message using an ATDS. Defendant is on notice that it will have to defend against both propositions.

Second, Defendant has sufficient notice in regard to the dates of the allegedly offending messages to begin investigating and crafting a defense. Defendant knows that Plaintiff alleges he received two of the messages on May 9, 2011 and October 24, 2011. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Armed with those dates and Plaintiff's full name, it is not unduly burdensome for Defendant to check its own database for the existence, or lack thereof, of calls made to Plaintiff. In addition, whether there were "additional" messages may matter in terms of the damages available to Plaintiff at the conclusion of proceedings, but their existence is not determinative as to the sufficiency of the complaint. Any one call made using an ATDS or any one pre-recorded message violates TCPA if made to a cellular phone. See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). The fact that Plaintiff specifically alleges at least two occasions on which a violation may have occurred is enough at this stage.

Defendant's first argument, however, merits closer examination. Defendant argues that pleading the use of an ATDS, without providing any other supporting facts, makes the allegation a conclusory statement merely reciting ...


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