The Telephone Consumer Protection Act or TCPA safeguards the interests
of telephone consumers through regulating the use of automated calling
equipment. It has several other guidelines aimed at ensuring telephone
communications do not become a nuisance.
However, the Act has seen a number of violations, alleged or proven, through
lawsuits. Most recently, in the case of Petri v. Mercy Health, a federal
judge in the state of Missouri ruled that under common law Agency Principals,
a hospital could not be held liable for violation of the TCPA by a third
party collection agency.
In 2010, Mercy Health (Mercy) entered into an agreement with Valarity,
LLC where it was decided that Valarity would perform collection services
for them, including making telephone calls and requests for payment. The
agreement also has a provision that says Valarity would be acting independently
without creating an agency relationship between Mercy and themselves.
Further, the agreement stated that each party was solely responsible for
the actions of its own employees. Thus, it would be clear that none of
the parties had authority to act on the behalf of the other party nor
control each other’s activities.
However, plaintiff Joseph Petri (Petri) claimed that Mercy violated the
TCPA when Valarity used an auto-dialer to make calls to his cell phone
without his prior consent. The TCPA places great emphasis on consumer
consent, making it illegal to call anyone without their express permission.
The complaint states that Petri’s phone was called approximately
26 times between the months of February and April 2014. These calls were
made to collect debt that was supposedly arising from medical services
but which was eventually found to be a mistake.
Plaintiff Petri says that since Valarity was acting on the behalf of Mercy,
Mercy should be held liable for this.
Note that this is a Motion for Summary Judgment brought before the court.
Such cases are based upon a claim by one or both parties that issues within
the case are settled, or are one-sided, and therefore do not need to be
tried. In other words, the party that brings the motion forward claims
that there are no facts at hand and hence the case need not go to a jury.
Even if it does, the jury should rule in favor of the moving party or
the one that brings forth the motion.
Coming back to the case, Mercy argued that because Valarity was not its
agent, they could not be held liable. To this, Petri’s response
includes references to corporate and tax records that he claims show that
Valarity is owned by Mercy.
The judge has ruled Mercy not liable however, because of the lack of sufficient
evidence towards Valarity acting as Mercy’s agent. Further, there
are no claims made on Mercy’s actions either.
Know your Rights
As a consumer, have you suffered from annoying and unsolicited collection
calls? Or do you know someone who has? If yes, know that you can sue the
organization or entity making calls for monetary damages to the tune of
$500 per violation. In case the violation is found to be willful, you
may be paid as much as $1500 as well. You can learn more about TCPA guidelines
in detail here.
Get in touch with a professional as soon as you can to understand what
constitutes harassment by telephone and what does not.
Legal Rights Advocates, PLLC is a law firm that specializes in helping clients who are facing
harassment in any form, including telephone communication. Our team of
attorneys, over the years, has helped countless clients get protections
from debt collection practices that are deemed as unlawful and illegal
under the TCPA.
If you are interested in learning more about how to safeguard yourself
better from the harassment faced from phone calls, call us at
(855) 254-7841 for immediate assistance.