Posted by Chris Alarie on Wed, 08/25/2021 - 11:02
Two of our points of emphasis for Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) compliance are: 1) litigators can be extremely tricky; and 2) the TCPA can be very expensive. A series of recent lawsuits against a single defendant all by a single plaintiff’s attorney illustrate these points. The litigator used some very unusual methods to gather information about the defendant and find class members, and the lawsuits are collectively seeking $10 billion in damages.
The attorney set the stage for these lawsuits in 2019 by developing an app that allowed consumers to report potential TCPA violations directly to his law firm. A number of the complaints that he received were about a particular company—then known as GoSmith and later known as Porch.com. The attorney then created a dummy account on GoSmith’s website. Further investigation allowed him to discover that it was possible to access non-password-protected accounts of other users by simply modifying a portion of the URL in a sequential manner. He was able to save more than 400,000 profiles as evidence.
Further investigations allowed the attorney to discover the source of the phone numbers associated with accounts. This included information that indicated that thousands of these profiles were created without the consent of the consumer. The attorney determined that the defendant contacted other businesses with text messages, offering to sell the aforementioned profiles as leads.
The attorney used the information he had downloaded from these profiles to create a targeted social media campaign soliciting plaintiffs. Enough consumers responded to allow him to file lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions—such as Dawson v. Porch.com, Inc. in the Western District of Washington—asking for a combined $10 billion in damages from GoSmith/Porch. These cases are ongoing and the ultimate results remain undetermined. But it is worth noting that the District Court in Dawson v. Porch did not find anything wrong with the attorney’s creative methods to gather information and solicit plaintiffs.