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Alarm Manufacturers Defeat TCPA Claims Based On Vicarious Liability

January 1, 2017 | Topic: Class Actions

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia recently granted summary judgment for the home security alarm manufacturers in In re Monitronics International, Inc. Telephone Consumer Protection Act Litigation (“Monitronics”) despite Plaintiff’s allegations that these defendants were vicariously liable for calls made by other companies that attempting to sell home security’s systems made by the defendants. 

In 2014, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized putative nationwide class actions asserting a variety of claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) against Monitronics International, Inc., UTC Fire & Security Americas, Honeywell and others.  Essentially, the various plaintiffs allege that they received autodialed calls to their cell phones, even though they had not given prior express consent to receive such calls.  The plaintiffs also allege that they were called in violation of their registration on the national do-not-call registry.  The plaintiffs did not allege that the alarm manufacturers directly made these calls, but rather that the alleged calls were made on their behalf, and therefore, they are vicariously liable for these calls.

The Monitronics court, however, recently rejected the plaintiffs’ theory that the alarm manufacturers were vicariously liable for any of the alleged calls.  As the court noted, the defendant alarm manufacturers merely sold the security equipment to third parties, who in turned marketed the security systems and security monitoring service to homeowners.  As such, there was no evidence that that defendant alarm manufacturers exercised control over the actual marketing of the security equipment after they sold the equipment to these third parties.  In addition, since these defendants did not have any direct communications with the ultimate end users (i.e. homeowners) there was no evidence that these third parties were acting on behalf of the defendant alarm manufacturers.  In doing so, the Monitronics court joined a growing number of courts that have questioned the ability of plaintiffs to prove vicarious liability in connection with TCPA claims.