United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
LENA KOTLYAR, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Castillo Chief Judge
Kotlyar ("Plaintiff), on behalf of herself and two
nationwide classes, brings this action under the Telephone
Consumer Protection Act (the "TCPA"), 47 U.S.C.
§ 227, against the University of Chicago Medical Center
("Defendant") to stop its alleged practice of using
unauthorized telephone calls through predictive dialers with
pre-recorded or artificial voices to collect unpaid medical
bills. (R. 11, Compl.) Defendant moves for a stay of the case
pending a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Circuit in ACA International v. FCC, No. 15-1211
(D.C. Cir. argued Oct. 19, 2016), the outcome of which
Defendant argues could affect several issues raised by the
complaint. (R, 15, Mot. to Stay.) For the reasons stated
below, the motion for a stay is granted.
to the complaint, Defendant is a major provider of healthcare
services to patients within the greater Chicago metropolitan
area and throughout the Midwest. (R. 11, Compl. ¶ 9.)
Defendant provides these services on a
"fee-for-service" basis, which allows patients to
pay for healthcare services directly, through a third-party,
or through some combination of these methods. (Id.
¶ 10.) Defendant allegedly collects patient phone
numbers at the time healthcare services are rendered, and,
among other things, uses the phone numbers as part of an
automated calling operation to collect on unpaid accounts.
(Id. ¶ 11.) These automatic collection calls
are placed through a predictive dialer which features
pre-recorded or artificial voices. (Id.) Plaintiff
claims that in an effort to reduce costs, Defendant allegedly
fails to use adequate procedures to confirm that patient
telephone numbers are accurate or current before placing
these automated phone calls. (Id. ¶ 12.)
alleges that sometime around April 2017, Defendant called her
cellular telephone in an attempt to collect an unpaid medical
debt. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff claims that she is
not a current or previous patient of Defendant and has had no
other relationship with Defendant. (Id. ¶¶
15-16.) Plaintiff claims that after the first call, she
received additional misdirected calls over the ensuing weeks
from Defendant on her cellular phone. (Id. ¶
17.) Plaintiff claims that these calls were attempts by
Defendant to collect an unpaid debt owed by a delinquent
patient of Defendant, and that all calls featured a
pre-recorded or artificial voice. (Id.) Plaintiff
claims she repeatedly contacted Defendant's customer
service department and notified them that her phone number
was not associated with Defendant's delinquent patient.
(Id. ¶ 18.) She further claims that she
informed Defendant's representatives that Defendant did
not have permission to call her number again. (Id.)
Plaintiff claims that her complaints were ignored, and that
Defendant continued to use automatic collection calls to call
her cellular phone to collect a debt she did not owe.
2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of
Cook County, Illinois, on behalf of herself and two other
similarly situated classes alleging violations of the TCP A.
(R. 1-1, State Court Compl.) The case was removed to this
Court by Defendant. (R. 1, Notice of Removal.) Thereafter,
the Court dismissed the complaint without prejudice to
Plaintiff filing either a timely motion to remand or an
amended federal complaint. (R. 9, Min. Entry.) In June 2017,
Plaintiff filed an amended federal complaint. (R. 11, Compl.)
As alleged in the amended complaint, Plaintiffs "Called
Party Class" claim alleges that in the four years prior
to this suit, all persons within the class received at least
one telephone call from Defendant on their cellular phone
which featured a pre-recorded or artificial voice, and that
the called party was not the same individual who provided the
telephone number to Defendant. (Id. ¶ 20(i).)
Plaintiffs "Revocation Class" claim alleges that
within the four years prior to this suit, all persons in the
class received at least one telephone call on their cellular
phones from Defendant featuring prerecorded or artificial
voices that Defendant did not have consent to make.
now moves for a stay pending a decision in ACA. (R.
16, Mem. at l.)ACA arose from a ruling issued by the
Federal Communications Commission ("FCC")
addressing numerous issues under the TCPA, including the
regulation of calls placed to reassigned numbers, revocation
of consent, and the use of predictive dialers. See In re
Rules & Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer
Protection Act of 1991, 30 F.C.C.R. 7961 (July 10,
2015). The D.C. Circuit heard arguments on October 19, 2016,
in a consolidated case filed by nine companies, including
lead petitioner ACA International, who sought judicial review
of the FCC's ruling pursuant to the Administrative
Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 500-504. See
Burnett v. OcwenLoan Servicing, LLC, No. 17 C 3474, 2017
WL 5171226, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 8, 2017) (explaining
procedural history of ACA). To date, no opinion has
been issued. See Id. Defendant argues that the
claims raised in this case could be impacted by a decision in
AC A, and that a stay of the case is therefore
appropriate. (R. 16, Mem. at 1-5.) Plaintiff objects to the
request for a stay and argues that a ruling in ACA
will have no impact on this case. (R. 26, Opp'n at 2.)
power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent
in every court to control the disposition of the cases on its
docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for
counsel, and for litigants." Texas Indep. Producers
& Royalty Owners Ass 'n v. E.P.A., 410 F.3d 964,
980 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Landis v. North Am. Co.,
299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936)). The party requesting a stay
"bears the burden of establishing its need."
Ankcorn v. Kohl's Corp., No. 15-1303, 2017 WL
395707, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 30, 2017) (citation omitted).
"The parties and issues in two suits need not be
identical for a court to stay proceedings in one suit pending
a decision in another." Leung v. XPA Logistics,
Inc., No. 13-3877, 2015 WL 12826472, at *1 (N.D. Ill.
Aug. 12, 2015). Courts generally consider three factors in
deciding whether to stay a case: (1) whether there would be
undue prejudice or tactical disadvantage to the non-moving
party, (2) whether a stay would simplify the issues in
question, and (3) whether a stay would reduce the burden of
litigation on the parties and the court. See Pfizer Inc.
v. Apotex Inc., 640 F.Supp.2d 1006, 1007 (N.D. Ill.
2009); Leung, 2015 WL 12826471, at *1.
the above factors, the Court concludes that a stay is
warranted. A stay will not cause undue prejudice or
disadvantage to the Plaintiff. Additionally, a stay will
potentially simplify or resolve certain issues raised by
Plaintiffs complaint, which in turn could reduce the burden
of litigation on the parties and the Court.
Undue Prejudice to the Non-Moving Party
argues that a stay in this case would not result in any undue
prejudice to Plaintiff because ACA was fully briefed
and argued on October 19, 2016, and therefore a decision in
ACA should be imminent. (R, 16, Mot. at 10.) In
Plaintiffs view, however, a stay of this case "could be
extremely lengthy, if not effectively indefinite, such that
Plaintiff would be prejudiced." (R. 26, Opp'n at 8.)
Court concludes that a stay of this case would not result in
any undue prejudice to Plaintiff. This case is still in the
very preliminary stages, and other than the amended complaint
being filed, no significant action has yet been undertaken by
either party. As Defendant points out, the ACA case
was fully briefed and argued more than a year ago. It seems
highly likely that a decision is imminent. SeeAmodeo v.
Grubhub, Inc., No. 17-CV-01284, 2017 WL 5166647, at *4
(N.D. Ill. Aug. 11, 2017) (finding that a stay based on
ACA would not unduly prejudice the plaintiff because
"[t]his case is in an early stage of litigation, and the
delay caused by the stay will likely be insubstantial giv[en]
that briefing and oral argument have already been completed
in the D.C. Circuit" (internal citation and quotation
marks omitted)). Plaintiff is incorrect in her argument that
granting a stay would "necessarily require" this
Court to extend the stay pending further appeals in
ACA. (R. 26, Opp'n at 8.) This might be an issue for
a later stage, but it is not a basis to deny the request for
a stay in the first place. See Amodeo, 2017 WL
5166647, at *4 (rejecting as premature plaintiffs argument
that "even after the D.C. Circuit Court rules, the
parties might then appeal the case to the ...