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Jay Clogg Realty Group, Inc. v. Burger King Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

April 16, 2014

JAY CLOGG REALTY GROUP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
BURGER KING CORP., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jay Clogg Realty Group, Inc. has brought this purported class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), 47 U.S.C. § 227, alleging that Defendant Burger King Corp. sent improper and unsolicited facsimile advertisements to members of the purported plaintiff class. Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint or to strike the class allegations, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim and that, in any event, claims under the TCPA are not amenable to class relief. Because I find that there is nothing in the TCPA that precludes a class action, the motion to dismiss is denied.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

For purposes of considering Defendant's Motion, this Court accepts the facts that Plaintiff has alleged in its Complaint as true. See Aziz v. Alcolac, 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff Jay Clogg Realty Group, Inc. is a Maryland corporation with its principal place of business in Rockville, Maryland. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. On December 17, 2012, December 24, 2012, and January 10, 2013, in addition to other dates yet to be determined, Plaintiff received several facsimile advertisements (the "Facsimile Advertisements") from Defendant Burger King Corp. advertising Defendant's food delivery service. See Compl. ¶ 15; Facsimile Advertisements, Compl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 1-1. Plaintiff "did not give express or implied prior invitation or permission for the transmission of the advertisements" to Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. The advertisements did not include an opt-out notice as required by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), 47 U.S.C. § 227. See Compl. ¶ 18; Facsimile Advertisements. The Facsimile Advertisements clearly identified Burger King as their source. Id. ¶ 24.

Plaintiff alleges that it is a member of a class of similarly situated persons potentially numbering in the thousands who received similar faxes. Id. ¶¶ 31-33. The fact that these facsimiles were sent to a large number of people is evidenced, in part, by the fact that Plaintiff's Maryland business received advertisements and coupons for discounts in Houston and New York City. Id. ¶ 23.

Plaintiff filed its Complaint in this Court on March 1, 2013, and filed a Motion to Certify Class, ECF No. 2, that same day. In Plaintiff's motion, it requested a stay to allow sufficient discovery to supplement the motion for class certification. Id. at 1. Defendant, pursuant to a stipulation extending its time to answer, filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and/or to Dismiss or Strike Plaintiff's Class Allegations, ECF No. 18, on April 29, 2013.

On September 10, 2013, the parties filed a Joint Motion to Stay the Litigation Pending Completion of Mediation, ECF No. 23, informing the Court that the parties had scheduled a mediation and wished to place this case on hold while they sought to reach a settlement, Mem. of Law in Supp. of Joint Mot. to Stay the Litigation Pending Completion of Mediation, ECF No. 23-1. I granted the motion to stay and summarily denied all other pending orders in a series of Paperless Orders entered on September 13, 2013, ECF Nos. 24-26, granting the parties leave to renew their motions if mediation did not succeed.

On December 23, 2013, the parties filed a Joint Status Report advising the Court that mediation had not yet led to a settlement and asking me to lift the stay, ECF No. 28, which I did, Paperless Order, ECF No. 30.

Plaintiff now has renewed its Motion for Class Certification ("Pl.'s Mot. to Certify"), ECF No. 29, and Defendant has renewed its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and/or to Dismiss or Strike Plaintiff's Class Allegations ("Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss"), ECF No. 31. With respect to Plaintiff's Motion to Certify, Defendants did not file a clearly delineated opposition and the time to do so has passed.[2] With respect to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff filed an opposition on January 27, 2014 ("Pl.'s Dismiss Opp'n"), ECF No. 33, and Defendant replied on February 13, 2014 ("Def.'s Dismiss Reply"), ECF No. 35.

The motion to dismiss or strike now is fully briefed and appears to make two primary arguments: (1) that Plaintiff has not stated a claim under the TCPA because it has failed to allege that the facsimile advertisements were received on an ink-and-paper facsimile machine, and (2) that TCPA actions inherently are not appropriate for class actions and therefore, even if Plaintiffs otherwise can state a claim, they cannot do so on behalf of a class and the class allegations should be struck.

Having reviewed the filings, I find that a hearing is not necessary. Loc. R. 105.6.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for "the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012). This rule's purpose "is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.'" Id. (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind the requirements of Rule 8, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief, " as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, " Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see Velencia, 2012 WL ...


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