For one Texas woman, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruined what was looking to be a nice payday for going through the pain of receiving 163 unwanted robocalls.
The case, King v. Time Warner, was appealed after the district court ruled in the plaintiff's favor on summary judgment and awarded treble damages. Unfortunately for Araceli King, since the ruling came down in her favor, the interpretation of what qualifies as a robo-dialer has changed. As the Second Circuit explained, as a result of that change, the case needed to be remanded and reanalyzed.
163 Times the Capacity
Curiously, the Second Circuit's logic boiled down to the word "capacity." This is because the definition of a robo-dialer includes any device that has the capacity to be a robo-dialer. With smartphones these days, that definition, as the FCC's interpretation from 2015 suggested, includes nearly every single smartphone, and many other devices that are not used as robo-dialers.
In the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals case, decided earlier this year, ACA International v. FCC, the petitioners specifically challenged the FCC's 2015 interpretation of a robo-dialer. The D.C. Circuit found that the FCC's interpretation was invalid. The Second Circuit agreed with the D.C. Circuit that the FCC's interpretation was insufficient and that there is a "a distinction between a device that currently has features that enable it to perform the functions of an autodialer -- whether or not those features are actually in use during the offending call -- and a device that can perform those functions only if additional features are added."
For King, the circuit decision just means that the case has to work its way back through the district court to analyze whether the Time Warner system that made the 163 calls qualifies as a robo-dialer.