On April 6, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued a ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment in a case involving both Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) claims and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) claims.
In McCaskill v. Navient Solutions, Inc., Defendant Navient Solutions, Inc., a student loan servicer, placed 249 calls to a cellular telephone number ending in -6140. Defendant Student Assistance Corporation (“SAC”), which provides “default prevention” services for guarantors of federal student loans, placed 478 calls to that same cellular telephone number. The -6140 number is assigned to Plaintiff McCaskill’s cell phone. The calls were regarding a student loan issued to McCaskill’s daughter. Before McCaskill began using the -6140 number for her cell phone, the number was assigned to her residence. McCaskill’s daughter also used the -6140 number when she requested a voluntary forbearance on her student loan.
McCaskill filed suit against Navient and SAC, alleging violations of the TCPA, FDCPA, and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”). On cross-motions for partial summary judgment, the parties contested several issues, including whether Navient and SAC had McCaskill’s prior express consent to call the -6140 number, whether McCaskill told Defendants to stop calling, whether the calls constituted prohibited harassment under the FCCPA and FDCPA, and whether SAC is a debt collector.
In its opinion, the Court stated that it had found no evidence suggesting that McCaskill provided her prior express consent to Defendants. Defendants attempted to argue that “Plaintiff manifested her consent by allowing her phone to ring over 700 times without attempting to stop the calls.” However, the Court rejected that argument, noting the statute’s requirement of express consent. The Court also rejected the argument that McCaskill’s daughter had consented on her mother’s behalf.
The Court then discussed potential damages under the TCPA. In addition to statutory damages in the amount of $363,500, McCaskill also sought treble damages for Defendants’ alleged “willful or knowing” violations of the TCPA. However, the Court concluded that the parties presented sufficient evidence to create a factual dispute about whether the Defendants knowingly violated the TCPA and, therefore, denied the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment on treble damages.
With regards to McCaskill’s FDCPA claims, the Court denied Defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment, finding the testimony of SAC’s president that SAC is not a “debt collector” conclusory and insufficient. Finally, the Court held that the issue of whether Defendants’ conduct was harassing or abusive was a question best left for the fact finder.