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Father and son playing online game on mobile phone together while sitting on floor

Earlier this month, a magistrate judge allowed a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) complaint filed by a notorious serial plaintiff to move forward to trial despite evidence potentially indicating that his claims were manufactured. This decision demonstrates the risks that these sorts of serial plaintiffs pose. Even if the defendant ends up winning the case at trial, they will have had to spend time and resources defending a seemingly frivolous TCPA complaint.

Nathen Barton is an established serial plaintiff. He has a history of filing TCPA lawsuits as the result of calls made to a cell phone number that he claims he purchased for his son. Last summer, he was ordered to pay $40,000 in fees when a court determined that he had manufactured a TCPA lawsuit. He has also been the subject of an oddly favorable, borderline hagiographic NPR profile.

In Barton v. Delfgauw, Barton filed suit with the sort of alleged TCPA violations that he has previously used in other, similar lawsuits. The defendant filed for summary judgement, providing evidence that Barton manufactured the violations by consenting to be called at the phone number using a different name. The defendant even contacted the previous owner of the phone number to confirm that she had not provided the consent at issue or made any other use of the phone number after she ceased to be the number’s subscriber.

Barton responded with a signed affidavit denying these charges. As a result, the court ruled against the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, sending the case to trial. If the claim really does end up in front of a jury, it will be interesting to see if Barton’s previous history of manufacturing claims factors into the eventual verdict.