TCPA Class-Action Plaintiff Must Arbitrate Claims
By Andrew C. Glass, Gregory N. Blase, Roger L. Smerage, and Matthew T. Houston
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (“Court”) recently allowed a defendant to enforce the arbitration provision in a TCPA plaintiff’s wireless agreements even though the defendant was not a party to the wireless agreements. The plaintiff in Rahmany, et al. v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:16-cv-01416-JCC (W.D. Wash.), brought suit against Subway Sandwich Shops, Inc. and the plaintiff’s wireless carrier, alleging that the companies violated the TCPA by sending unsolicited text messages to the plaintiff and a putative class of individuals. Shortly after filing suit, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the wireless carrier. Subway, however, sought to enforce the mandatory arbitration clause in the agreement between the plaintiff and his wireless carrier, even though Subway was not a party to that agreement. The clause required the plaintiff to individually arbitrate disputes unless the plaintiff opted out of the provision within 30 days of signing the contract, which the plaintiff had not done.
In granting Subway’s motion to compel arbitration, the Court determined that (1) the plaintiff’s claims against Subway fell within the “scope” of the arbitration agreement because the agreement applied to all disputes “in any way related” to the wireless agreement, and (2) the plaintiff had alleged that the text messages were sent by wireless carrier on behalf of Subway. The Court further concluded that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable because the plaintiff had the option to opt-out of mandatory arbitration and had failed to do so. Finally, the Court concluded that equitable estoppel required that the Court enforce the arbitration agreement against the plaintiff where (1) the claims against Subway were intertwined with the wireless agreement, and (2) the plaintiff alleged interdependent conduct by the carrier and Subway. As a result, the Court dismissed the pending action, concluding that, because all “claims must be submitted to arbitration, [the Court lacked] jurisdiction, and dismissal [was] appropriate.”