In the latest of a series of “whodunit” cases, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio held that a subscriber who did not answer a single call that allegedly violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act still had standing to sue under the statute. In Maraan v. Dish Network LLC (Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-436), the court found that the grandfather of a minor, who subscribed to and paid for a “family” cell phone plan on behalf of his grandson, had standing to sue under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act based on collection calls received by his grandson. In so holding, the Court rejected the notion – supported by a number of other courts – that only the called party has standing to sue.
The Ohio court’s finding highlights the judicial split on the standing issue. Certain courts have held that the TCPA is rooted in privacy concerns; therefore, only the recipient of an unwanted call has standing to sue. Other courts have relied on the idea that consumers may be charged for unwanted calls in determining that standing lies with the person who pays for the cell phone plan. The Ohio court’s finding, however, represents what may be the most extreme of these positions, because it conferred standing on a person who never received a call from the number at issue. Absent specific guidance from the FCC, it is unlikely that courts will reach a consensus regarding standing under the TCPA, and the issue will continue to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.