In an action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) removed to federal court under the court’s diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, the question of whether the action may be maintained as a class action is a substantive issue to be decided under the law of the forum state. Giovanniello v. The New York Law Publishing Co., No. 07-1990, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56694 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 6, 2007). The district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s putative class action, because under New York C.P.L.R. §901(b), a case brought to recover statutory penalties may not be maintained as a class action. The court noted that in enacting the TCPA, Congress intended to incorporate state law limits on private causes of action under the Act. Applying the Erie doctrine, the court concluded that state law limits on class actions are substantive rather than procedural rules, and thus the class action could not be maintained. Because the plaintiff’s individual claim was less than the $75,000 amount required for diversity jurisdiction, the court dismissed the case in its entirety.
The court noted that plaintiff Giovanniello, an attorney, and his current counsel, have been involved in several cases seeking class action relief under the TCPA, e.g. Giovanniello v. Carolina Wholesale Office Machines Co., Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60671 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 2007) (TCPA class action dismissed as moot because individual claim resolved and class certification denied in identical state court action). Note, however, other states may permit class actions under the TCPA. See American Home Services v. A Fast Sign Co., Inc., 2007 Ga. App. LEXIS 906 (Ga. Ct. App. Aug. 9, 2007) (Georgia appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling certifying TCPA class action, rejecting the defendant’s claim that the proposed class failed the commonality requirement based upon "the hypothetical existence of persons in the class against whom it could assert the existing business relationship exception").