In a recent case, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California partially dismissed a consumer’s claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  The case is Bodie v. Lyft, No. 3:16-cv-02558-L-NLS (S.D. Cal. Jan. 16, 2019). 

Plaintiff Jason David Bodie’s complaint alleged that he received two unsolicited text messages from a telephone number that belongs to or was used by Lyft on or about October 10, 2016.  Bodie alleged that the first text message instructed him to download the Lyft app onto his cellular phone, while the second message included a link to download the app.  In addition, he alleged that the text messages were sent using an automatic telephone dialing system, or “ATDS,” as defined by 47 U.S.C. § 227(a)(1), and that the ATDS was owned by a commercial text messaging system acting as an agent or vendor of Lyft.  Finally, Bodie alleged that he sustained damages because the text messages invaded his privacy interests, were a nuisance, and caused frustration, distress, and loss of time. 

Lyft filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that: (1) Bodie’s ATDS allegations were conclusory; and (2) he failed to plausibly allege that Lyft sent the texts or had an agency relationship with the sender.  The Court first noted two permissible approaches to evaluating the sufficiency of the consumer’s ATDS allegations.  Under the first, a plaintiff is permitted to make minimal allegations in the complaint, and discovery is permitted to proceed on the ATDS issue because the information is in the sole possession of the defendant.  Under the second, the plaintiff must plead factual allegations beyond mere statutory language.  The Court held that, under either approach, Bodie had failed to state a plausible claim for relief because his complaint “merely parrot[ed] [the] statutory definition of an ATDS” and failed to contain any facts that supported a reasonable inference that Lyft used an ATDS to send the relevant text messages. 

With respect to Bodie’s claim regarding the agency relationship between Lyft and the sender of the text messages, the Court held that his allegations were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.  In particular, the Court noted that the consumer’s allegations that the texts were “sent via a commercial text messaging system by an agent or vendor hired by Lyft” and that “Lyft instructed its agents or vendors as to the content of the text messages and timing of the sending of the text messages” sufficiently stated Lyft’s alleged vicarious liability. 

Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor and report on courts’ analysis and treatment of the TCPA.