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Flockhart v. Synchrony Bank

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

August 1, 2017





         This matter is before the Court pursuant to defendant Synchrony Bank's motion (Doc. 10), to stay this lawsuit pending the outcome of ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, Case No. 15-1211 (“ACA International”). Plaintiff filed non-timely resistance on July 10, 2017 (Doc. 12) pursuant to Court Order. (Doc 11). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants defendant's motion to stay proceedings pending the D.C. Circuits' decision in ACA International.


         On March 28, 2017, plaintiff filed suit against defendant alleging violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. § 227 et seq. (Doc. 2). Plaintiff alleges that defendant used an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) to call plaintiff's cell phone many times without plaintiff's consent in violation of the TCPA. (Id.). On May 11, 2017, defendant filed an answer. (Doc. 9). On June 12, 2017, defendant filed a motion to stay all proceedings in this case pending decision of the D.C. Circuit in the consolidated appeal ACA International.

         Congress passed the TCPA in 1991, and delegated definitions regarding the do not call rules to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 47 U.S.C. § 227(c)(3). The TCPA prohibits any ATDS from calling wireless phones and leaving prerecorded messages without express consent of the called party. 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A). On July 10, 2015, the FCC further defined an ATDS as “dialing equipment generally has the capacity to store or produce, and dial random or sequential numbers [and thus meets the TCPA's definition of “autodialer”] even if it is not presently used for that purpose, including when the caller is calling a set list of consumers”. See In the Matter of Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 30 FCC Rcd 7961, 10 (July 10, 2015). The July 2015 FCC ruling has prompted significant TCPA litigation, while affected corporations claim the FCC has exceeded its regulatory authority. John R. Chiles, Zachary Miller, & Rachel R. Friedman, TCPA Litigation UpDated: Enduring Questions after the FCC's 2015 TCPA Declaratory Ruling, 72 Bus. Law. 577 (Spring 2017).

         The July 2015 FCC ruling was challenged by consolidated appeal to the D.C. Circuit in ACA International. Pursuant to the Hobbs Act, the D.C. Circuit can reverse the FCC ruling and remand the case to the FCC to carry out the judgment of the Court, subject to review by the Supreme Court upon writ of certiorari. 47 U.S.C. § 402. At the present time, pending the decision of the D.C. Circuit, the July 2015 FCC ruling is the law.


         The Court has broad discretion to stay proceedings when appropriate to control its docket as far as optimal use of judicial resources while weighing competing interests. Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936): Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, 446 F.3d 808, 816 (8th Cir. 2006). In the event of a pending decision that will be controlling in the instant case, federal courts have considered issuing a stay pending another court's decision. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. S. Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist., 559 F.3d 1191, 1198 (11th Cir. 2009). In deciding the merits of a motion to stay proceedings, the Court weighs the following factors: (1) whether a stay will be the most efficient use of judicial resources by preventing duplication of effort; (2) whether the pending decision could simplify and narrow the issues in the case; and (3) whether the Court will be able to benefit from the pending decision. Middleton, Inc. v. Minnesota Mining and Mfg. Co., 2004 WL 1968669, at 3 (S.D. Iowa Aug. 24, 2004).

         Since the ACA International appeal, the Federal Courts have ruled multiple times whether to stay lawsuits similar to the instant case, pending the D.C. circuit decision. Factors weighed in considering a stay of proceeding include whether:

the definition of an ATDS is a threshold issue for liability and would determine the scope of discovery; (2) a stay would conserve judicial resources, clarify the law, and aid the court in making a decision on the merits; (3) the plaintiff would not be prejudiced by a stay; (4) a stay would reduce the burden of litigation on the parties; (5) the ACA International appeal was not likely to remain pending for long, considering that briefing is complete and oral argument scheduled; and (6) absent a stay, the defendant would suffer hardship in conducting discovery and preparing for trial.

Frable v. Synchrony Bank, 2016 WL 6123248, at *4 (D. Minn. Oct. 17, 2016); See, e.g., Coatney v. Synchrony Bank, No. 6:16-cv-389-Orl-22TBS, 2016 WL 4506315, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 2, 2016); Rose v. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, No. 1:16-CV-562- CAP, 2016 WL 3369283, at *2 (N.D.Ga. June 14, 2016).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. ...

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