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Rivero v. D'jais, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 30, 2019

MARIO RIVERO, Plaintiff,
v.
D'JAIS, LLC, a New Jersey corporation, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Hon. Freda L. Wolfson U.S. Chief District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant D'Jais, LLC's (“Defendant” or “D'Jais”) motion to dismiss the Complaint filed by plaintiff Mario Rivero (“Plaintiff” or “Rivero”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Rivero's claims arise out of numerous text messages D'Jais allegedly caused to be sent to Rivero in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. § 227, promoting D'Jais's bar, restaurant and nightclub. Because the Court concludes that Rivero has adequately stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, D'Jais's motion is denied.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

         Rivero is a resident of New Jersey. First Amended Complaint (“Compl.”), ¶ 15. Rivero alleges that D'Jais is a New Jersey limited liability company that operates as “a bar, restaurant, dance club and entertainment company” in Monmouth County, New Jersey, id. at ¶ 16, and that it operates the same type of venue in Ocean County, New Jersey. Id. at ¶ 19.

         Rivero avers that D'Jais caused numerous text messages to be sent to him, from at least December 23, 2017 to May 11, 2018, advertising events and drink prices at D'Jais. Id. at ¶¶ 20 - 22. Rivero further avers that he never consented to allow D'Jais to contact him by text message using an automatic telephone dialing system. Id. at ¶ 23. Rivero notes that some of the alleged text messages included hyperlinks to D'Jais's website. Id. at ¶¶ 27 - 30. Finally, Rivero alleges that the language of the text messages was impersonal and generic and did not include the name of the intended recipient, indicating that they were not written with a particular recipient in mind, id. at ¶¶ 35 - 36, and that the text messages were sent, not from an ordinary telephone number, but rather a five-digit “short code, ” which allows text message to be sent in large volumes. Id. at ¶¶ 37 - 38.

         On August 13, 2018, Rivero filed this suit as a putative class action. On January 29, 2019, Rivero filed his First Amended Complaint, alleging both negligent and willful violations of the TCPA by D'Jais, but bringing those claims only on his own behalf. Id. at ¶¶ 42 - 49. The parties agreed to a stipulation of facts, and, on February 19, 2019, D'Jais moved to dismiss with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint may be dismissed for “[f]ailure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When reviewing a motion to dismiss on the pleadings, courts “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quotations omitted). Under this standard, the factual allegations set forth in a complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Indeed, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “[A] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to ‘show' such an entitlement with its facts.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009).

         However, Rule 12(b)(6) only requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must include “enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.” Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (citation and quotations omitted); Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013) (“[A] claimant does not have to set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim. The pleading standard is not akin to a probability requirement; to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint merely has to state a plausible claim for relief.” (citation and quotations omitted)).

         Under the current pleading regime, when a court considers a dismissal motion, three sequential steps must be taken: first, “it must take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (quotations omitted). Next, the court “should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. (quotations omitted). Lastly, “when there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. (quotations and brackets omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         D'Jais moves to dismiss on the basis that Rivero has failed to adequately plead that D'Jais used an ATDS to send him text messages, as is required by the TPCA, because he has not alleged facts indicating that the device randomly or sequentially generated the number it dialed. Alternatively, D'Jais argues that, if this Court allows Rivero's suit to proceed, it should at least dismiss Count II, which alleges a knowing or willful violation of the TCPA. For the reasons that follow, I find these arguments unavailing.

         A. The TCPA

         The TCPA provides that it is “unlawful for any person within the United States . . . to make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using any automatic telephone dialing system . . . to any telephone number assigned to a . . . cellular telephone service.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). “A text message to a cellular telephone, it is undisputed, qualifies as a ‘call' within the compass of § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii).” Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S.Ct. 663, 667 (2016); see also Gager v. Dell Financial Services, LLC, 727 F.3d 265, 269 n.2 (3d Cir. 2013). “The term ‘automatic telephone dialing system' means ...


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