A recent decision by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals addressed whether a private right of action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) required a separate act of enabling legislation. The Court found that private causes of action may be brought in the Washington D.C. Superior Court under the Act without the need for enabling legislation. CyberLaw PC attorney Eric Menhart was on the brief for the prevailing appellant. Read the full text of the opinion: Portuguese American Leadership Council of the United States, Inc. v. Investors’ Alert, Inc. No. 04-CV-1187 (D.C. 2008).
In its decision, the Court finds that the TCPA provides that a “person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State . . . an action based on a violation” of the Act. The trial court interpreted the “if otherwise permitted” language in the TCPA to mean that before a private right of action can be exercised, a state must “opt in” through enabling legislation that allows the lawsuits to proceed.
The opinion notes that the language “if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a state” in the TCPA appears to refer to the neutral general jurisdictional and procedural laws and rules governing each state’s court system. Second, the Court notes that rulings by the Federal Communications Commission support the view that no enabling legislation is necessary. Third, the D.C. Court of Appeals finds that a majority of state courts hold that enabling legislation is unnecessary to make the TCPA’s private action provision enforceable in state courts. Finally, the court refers to the legislative history of the TCPA to further support its ruling.
The ruling brings D.C. to the same result that all other reviewing states have reached: allowing a private right of action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.