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Martinez v. TD Bank USA, N.A.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 30, 2017

CHARLENE MARTINEZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
TD BANK USA, N.A., a National Bank, and TARGET CORPORATION, a Minnesota corporation Defendants.

          Stefan Louis Coleman, Esq., Attorney for Plaintiff

          Jarrod D. Shaw, Esq., MCGUIRE WOODS LLP, Attorney for Defendants

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Charlene Martinez brings this putative class action against Defendants TD Bank USA, N.A. (“TD Bank”) and Target Corporation (“Target”), alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. § 227, and a California law entitled the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“RFDCPA”), Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1788-1788.33, arising from telephone calls placed in connection with Defendants' efforts to collect a consumer debt from Plaintiff's credit card. [Docket Item 25.] The Court previously dismissed Plaintiff's claim under California's Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200, et seq., for lack of standing. [Docket Items 60 & 61.] Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment, or, in the alternative, to strike Plaintiff's class allegations. [Docket Item 54.] Plaintiff has filed a Response [Docket Entry 57] and Defendants have filed a Reply [Docket Entry 62].

         Defendants argue, first, that there is no genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether Defendants violated the TCPA because Plaintiff provided prior express consent before all of the calls at issue and did not revoke that consent before any of the calls were made. Second, Defendants argue that there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether harassment occurred within the meaning of the RFDCPA and summary judgment in their favor is appropriate. Defendants also argued that they were entitled to summary judgment as to Plaintiff's UCL claim, as that claim had not yet been dismissed at the time when Defendants filed the instant motion. Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's class allegations should be stricken as they improperly propose a fail-safe class.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment and will strike Plaintiff's class allegations.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         TD Bank is a large national bank chain that, inter alia, “owns and underwrites a portfolio of credit card accounts.” [FAC ¶ 1.] Target is a corporation headquartered in Minnesota and doing business in New Jersey and nationwide. [Id. at ¶ 8.]

         Plaintiff Charlene Martinez, a California resident, opened a Target credit card account in 2007. At all times relevant to this action, Target was the servicer of her credit card account. When Plaintiff opened the account, she agreed that Target or its agents were permitted to call her, including her mobile telephone, regarding her account, and that they could make such calls using an automated dialing/announcing device. [Pl. Statement of Material Facts in Opp., Docket Item 58 ¶¶ 1-3.]

         Plaintiff obtained the cell phone number at issue here, ending in -2420, in 2011. When she updated her account Response to the Supplemental Statement (Docket Item 63).

         information with Target on its website on September 17, 2012, she provided this number as her “home” telephone number and received a disclosure that stated that, by providing her phone number on that page, she consented to receiving, at that phone number, autodialed and prerecorded calls from Target or on Target's behalf. Plaintiff then clicked “Submit” after that disclosure was provided. [Id. at ¶¶ 4-9.]

         Before that date, Plaintiff had updated her account information (e.g., her address or her phone number) in other ways: by writing the new address on her monthly statement, by calling Target and using Target's automated phone system, and by calling Target and speaking to a live customer service representative. [Id. at ¶¶ 12(a)-(e).] At one point, Plaintiff called Target's customer service and spoke to a live representative to change her phone number; on another occasion, she called Target's customer service and spoke to a live representative to revoke her consent for Target to call that number (ending in -2460). [Id. at ¶¶ 12(f) & (g).] On September 9, 2013 (almost one year after Plaintiff provided the -2420 number on Target's website), Plaintiff called Target and provided an updated address to a live customer service representative; she did not provide an updated phone number during that conversation. [Id. at ¶ 12(i).] On July 9, 2014, Plaintiff again used Target's website to provide an updated home address and did not change the phone number from the -2420 number. [Id. at ¶ 12(j).]

         Plaintiff had landline telephone service in her name from 2014 to 2015. [Id. at ¶ 13.]

         Plaintiff's Target credit card account became delinquent sometime in late 2014; between August 29, 2014 and April 15, 2015, Target placed 165 calls to Plaintiff's cell phone regarding the delinquent account. [Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.] Plaintiff concedes the accuracy of Target's dialer records as to the “date, time, content, and duration of Defendants' calls to Plaintiff.” [Id. at ¶ 16.] ¶ 19 of those days, Plaintiff received two calls per day; on two days, she received three calls per day. Of the 165 calls, 162 calls had durations of 0 seconds, i.e., were not answered by Plaintiff or another party. [Id. at ¶¶ 17(a)-(e).] On August 29, 2014, a 6-second call occurred where the person who answered stated that Plaintiff was not home; on August 30, 2014, a 487-second call occurred where the person who answered promised to pay; and on April 15, 2015, a 159-second call occurred where Plaintiff told Target she was filing for bankruptcy. [Id. at ¶ 17(f).]

         While Plaintiff initially alleged that she spoke with Target on April 14, 2015 and told them to stop calling her, she later amended that to state that she spoke with Target both on April 14 and April 15; she also stated in her deposition that it is possible that her memory is incorrect. While at one point during this case, Plaintiff stated that she called Defendants to ask them to stop calling the -2420 number, she has no record of making such a call; generally speaking, Plaintiff cannot contradict Target's dialer records because she does not have any call logs and cannot estimate the number of calls she received between August of 2014 and April of 2015. [Id. at 18-20.]

         Plaintiff alleges that on April 10, 2015, Plaintiff's bankruptcy attorney, Daniel Shay, faxed cease-and-desist letters to two fax numbers, “revoke[ing] any prior express consent that may have been given [by Plaintiff or her husband] to receive telephone calls, especially to Clients' cellular telephones, from an Automated Telephone Dialing System, or a pre-recorded voice” as outlined in the TCPA.” The letters were faxed to two numbers: (856) 533-1138 and (302) 683-6889. The transmission report for the faxes indicated that the transmission for each was “OK.” [Pl. Supp. Statement of Material Facts in Opp., Docket Item 59 at ¶¶ 1-3, citing Docket Item 58-2 at ¶¶ 4 & 5 and Exhs. 1 & 2.] Defendants dispute these factual allegations inasmuch as they “have no record of receiving the cease and desist letters.” [Def. Response to Statement of Material Facts in Opp., Docket Item 63 at ¶¶ 1-3.]

         The (856) 533-1138 number receives faxes for TD Bank, N.A.'s Business Solutions group. However, Defendants note that TD Bank, N.A. “is a different entity than the one related to the Target REDcard.” [Docket Item 63 at ¶ 4, citing Docket Item 56-9 at 4.]

         The (302) 683-6889 number receives faxes for TD Bank USA, N.A. as well as for TD Bank, N.A.; however, Defendants note that “the number was not provided as a method to communicate regarding the Target REDcard.” [Docket Item 63 at ¶ 5, citing Docket Item 56-9 at 4.]

         During the deposition of Target's Rule 30(b)(6) designee, Susan Wolf, Ms. Wolf was unable to state the fax number where cease-and-desist letters (or other revocations of consent) could or should be sent; however, Defendants point out, Ms. Wolf stated that, while she did not know the number, it “might” be found online or be given out by a customer service representative to a caller. [Docket Item 63 at ¶ 9, citing Docket Item 59-1 at 14-15.]

         Target placed four calls to the -2420 number from April 11, 2015 to April 15, 2015. [Docket Item 63 at ¶ 6.] Target stopped calling Plaintiff after April 15, 2015, when a Target representative reported in Target's account system that Plaintiff had retained a bankruptcy attorney. [Id. at ¶ 7.]

         Neither Plaintiff's electricity bill nor her cell phone bills increased as a result of the calls made by Defendants to the -2420 number. [Docket Item 58 at ¶¶ 23-24.] Plaintiff no longer uses the -2420 cell phone number. [Id. at ¶ 26.]

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         At summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to examine the evidence in light most favorable to the non-moving party, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999); Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). Credibility determinations are not appropriate for the court to make at the summary judgment stage. Davis v. Portlines Transportes Maritime Internacional, 16 F.3d 532, 536 n.3 (3d Cir. 1994).

         A factual dispute is material when it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The non-moving party “‘need not match, item for item, each piece of evidence proffered by the movant, '” but must simply present more than a “mere scintilla” of evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Boyle v. Cnty. of Allegheny Pennsylvania, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).

         IV. ...


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