Never before has a defendant won a trial in a certified Telephone Consumer Protection Act case. Astonishingly, this losing streak finally came to an end this month in Lyngaas v. Curaden AG, et al., where defendants Curaden AG and Curaden USA convinced the Court during the bench trial of a certified TCPA junk fax class case that class plaintiff Brian Lyngaas’s key piece of evidence was inadmissible. However, the wind quickly was taken out of the defendants’ sails when the Court ordered a post-trial claims administration process that will prevent Curaden from challenging the class member list.
In the subject case, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan issued a series of rulings following the bench trial, wherein Lyngaas sought recovery in excess of $30 million. The Court granted Curaden’s objections to Lyngaas’s fax logs and deemed the logs to be inadmissible. It is unclear whether Curaden’s objections were made on the grounds of hearsay or authenticity. Regardless, the Court held that the fax log – the key piece of evidence – was a summary of a record provided by a third party and that Lyngaas presented no evidence from that third party as to how the log was created or maintained. Since Lyngaas’s expert relied on this unreliable fax log to determine the count of completed faxes, the expert’s opinion also was unreliable. A huge win for Curaden, right? Not so fast.
Despite how Curaden technically “won” the trial, the Court ordered that the class members are to receive notices of the right to make claims. In other words, the class members still can submit claims and recover money. Further, Curaden USA “is not entitled to discovery or trial regarding claimant’s status as a class member” and, instead, “if a claim form is complete and consistent with the information in the target lists, it will be granted.” Ironically, the class notices and claim forms are being sent to the same list of fax targets that the Court previously excluded from evidence.
While the Curaden defendants apparently won the trial, the Court’s post-trial orders obscure the score.