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Federal Courts Opened to Private TCPA Suits

February 2012

On January 18, 2012, the Supreme Court decided Mims v. Arrow Financial Services, LLC, 2012 WL 125429 (2012), holding that federal and state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over private suits arising under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  This means that private causes of actions under the TCPA may be brought in both state and federal courts. Some believe that federal jurisdiction may result in there being more frequent TCPA class actions.

Petitioner Mims filed a suit for damages against Arrow Financial Services, LLC, a debt-collection agency, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, invoking federal question jurisdiction.  The District Court dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed this dismissal based on a provision in the TCPA stating that a private person may seek redress in a state court.

The question to be decided was whether Congress' provision for private actions in state courts to enforce the TCPA makes state courts the exclusive courts for such actions.  There was a circuit split on this issue.  The Court held the answer was "no."  "We find no convincing reason to read into the TCPA's permissive grant of jurisdiction to state courts any barrier to the U.S. district courts' exercise of the general federal-question jurisdiction they have possessed since 1875."  Because the Court found that Congress did not deprive federal courts of federal question jurisdiction over private TCPA suits, the Eleventh Circuit was reversed and the case remanded.