TCPA Blog contributors Bradley Andreozzi and Justin Kay were recently featured in a Modern Healthcare article about a class action targeting Prospect Medical Group’s Southern California Hospital at Culver City. The suit alleges that the hospital violated the TCPA when its patient department called the plaintiff’s cell phone without the requisite consent in an effort to collect on a debt for services rendered at the facility. The article examined how the hospital became one of the first providers to be sued following the Federal Communications Commission’s July 2015 Omnibus ruling that narrowed the FCC’s reading of the scope of the required prior express consent for automated calls to patients.
The plaintiff’s exact argument is still unclear, said Justin Kay, a Chicago-based attorney at law firm Drinker Biddle, who described the suit as “threadbare, ” perhaps to make it harder for Prospect to win a motion to dismiss. “Presumably, what (the plaintiff’s attorney) is going to argue is the scope of consent did not include this call based on the circumstances under which the number was provided, ” he said.
Previous cases have generally given hospitals some latitude on calling patients for purposes of collecting a payment as part of an episode of care. But healthcare providers need to make sure that the debt is linked to the medical encounter during which the patient provided a cell number.
“The best practice for any hospital is to have written consent during the admissions process that is broadly worded to include all types of automated calls and texts, ” said Bradley Andreozzi, a Chicago-based attorney at Drinker Biddle.
TCPA violations are already an active area for plaintiffs, with TCPA-related lawsuits increasing 560% between 2010 and 2014, according to ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.
“As the FCC gradually narrowed the scope of express consent, it became cause to litigate, ” Andreozzi said. “We don’t see any sign that that’s going to change anytime soon.”