On January 16, 2019, the Southern District of California dismissed a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) claim against Lyft because the plaintiff failed to support the automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) element of his claim. Like many similar TCPA plaintiffs, the plaintiff in Bodie v. Lyft, No. 3:16-cv-02558-L-NLS (S.D. Cal.) sought to state a TCPA claim by simply asserting that Lyft used an ATDS to send him text messages without providing factual allegations to support his claim. The Southern District of California found this was insufficient and dismissed the case. Given the prevalence of TCPA complaints that pay short shrift to the ATDS element, defendants should consider whether a similar strategy could pay dividends.
In Bodie, the plaintiff alleged that Lyft violated the TCPA’s cellphone provision by sending him two text messages without his consent. To state a claim under that provision, the plaintiff was required to allege facts that rendered plausible his assertion that the text messages were sent with an ATDS. The TCPA defines an ATDS as equipment that has the capacity “(A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.” In an effort to satisfy his pleading requirements, the plaintiff provided two allegations. The first simply parroted this statutory language, thus running afoul of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff also alleged that Lyft used equipment that has the capacity to send messages without human intervention. The Court concluded that this was insufficient because the plaintiff’s allegation lacked factual support that rendered it plausible.
Although it is a straightforward decision, Bodie unmistakably stands for the proposition that TCPA plaintiffs must do more than simply state that defendants used an ATDS. Defendants facing comparably sparse allegations should consider whether a similar approach is warranted.