November 1st, 2019
The Statue of Limitations for a TCPA Lawsuit
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act or the “TCPA” is the principal federal law to provide protections against unwanted robocalls and other unauthorized commercial calls to consumers. The TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or pre-recorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines. Robocalls are commonly identified with overt scams such as identity theft schemes. However, major American corporations and debt collectors are responsible for millions of robocalls each month, and many of these businesses break the law by continuing calls to consumers even after being told to stop. See our blog on October 30 for more detail of how this law works.
A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum time the parties involved in a dispute have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense or violation of law. “Time barred” is another way of saying that the statute of limitations has expired.
The TCPA does not specify a statute of limitations. Accordingly, at least since 2012, courts have applied the four-year federal “catch all” statute of limitations period set forth in the United States Code. See e.g., Giovanniello v. ALM Media, 726 F.3d 106 (2ND Cir. Aug. 8, 2013). The federal “catch all” statute of limitations codified at 28 U.S.C. Section 1658(a) provides that “except as otherwise provided by law, a civil action under an Act of Congress enacted after the date of enactment of this section may not be commenced later than four years after the cause of action accrues.”
However, statutes of limitations are almost never that simple. A number of exceptions exist that may expand the time allowed to file a lawsuit under the TCPA. For example, federal courts have ruled that statutes of limitations are tolled while a class action is pending at least where the second case filed is an individual case. Tolled means here that the four-year clock is turned off on the date the class action was filed until the court denies or grants class certification which would turn the clock back on. Tolling the statute of limitations requires applying legal “fine points” which often vary by jurisdiction. Therefore, experienced counsel should be consulted to determine if you may benefit from tolling. The important take away is that with TCPA class actions on the rise, many individual’s TCPA cases may be tolled because of this exception. Tolling can substantially expand the number of days or years available and enhance the amount recovered. Accordingly, anyone thinking about opting out of or excluding themselves from a TCPA class action settlement in favor of filing an individual case needs to evaluate the finer points of tolling.
But why wait four years to file any case? The purpose of a statute of limitations is to avoid claims which are so old that evidence gets destroyed and memories fade. For example, wireless providers are not required to retain call records for four years. Some wireless providers save critical call information for only one year or less. Fortunately, mortgage loan servicers and other debt collectors typically maintain call logs for longer periods. If you believe your TCPA rights have been violated by a legitimate company, please contact Bordas & Bordas to review your rights and answer any questions you have about TCPA cases.