Less than two weeks ago, the Sixth Circuit became the first circuit court to consider whether a TCPA claim survives the plaintiff’s death. In Parchman v. SLM Corp., the district court held that TCPA claims are penal in nature; therefore, they do not survive a plaintiff’s death. The Sixth Circuit reversed that decision.
Under federal common law, “remedial” claims (created to compensate the plaintiff) survive the plaintiff’s death but “punitive” claims (created to deter defendants or the public at large) do not. To determine whether TCPA claims are remedial or punitive, the Sixth Circuit considered (1) whether the purpose of the TCPA was to redress wrongs to the individual or to the public, (2) whether recovery runs to the individual or the public under the statute, and (3) whether the recovery authorized by the statute is proportionate to the harm suffered. According to the Court, the first two factors favor a finding that the TCPA is remedial in nature. As to the third factor, the Court determined that $500 per call was not wholly disproportionate to the harm suffered by receiving irritating and invasive calls even though the harm is hard to quantify and may vary from person to person. Moreover, the Court held that the TCPA should not be found to be penal merely because one remedy authorized by the statute (treble damages) may be disproportionate in nature.
As the first appeals case of its kind, Parchman demonstrates the court’s substantial interest in protecting the private rights of the consumer, regardless of whether that consumer is able to physically litigate the matter.
* Breeana Minton contributed to this post.