American Heart Association “Beats” TCPA Class Action

In Reese v. Anthem Inc., et al., the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana dismissed a plaintiff’s TCPA class action suit against the American Heart Association (“AHA”), Anthem Foundation, Inc., and Anthem, Inc. This decision should breathe some life into the American Heart Association and other healthcare companies facing similar TCPA claims, as the Court in Reese recognized that there are limits to the TCPA’s expansive reach.

Plaintiff Reese filed a putative class action arguing that the defendants violated the TCPA by sending her unwanted text messages following her attendance at a CPR training course. Plaintiff attended a free CPR class through the AHA and provided her cell phone number to receive informational texts related to the program. Plaintiff later received more than 20 text messages not only from the AHA but from its branding partners as well. Although most of the messages contained health-related information, Plaintiff argued that defendants were involved in an “advertising scheme” and pointed to one specific message that offered “for-pay” CPR training classes.

Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the consent Plaintiff had provided to the AHA permitted defendants to send such messages. The Court granted defendants motion to dismiss and found that defendants had not violated the TCPA because Plaintiff expressly consented to receive text messages from defendants when she provided her cell phone number at the CPR training course. Many courts have held that voluntarily providing one’s cell phone number constitutes prior express consent. Here, the Court focused on whether the nature of text messages fell within the scope of consent Plaintiff had provided. The Court found that Plaintiff had provided consent to receive texts regarding healthy living and all the subsequent texts were “precisely what she received.”

Further, the Court noted that the text messages did not fall under the category of advertisement or telemarketing because the messages did not promote the purchasing of any specific goods or services. The messages merely provided the opportunity to seek out further information regarding health care services and therefore were purely informational. The Court even addressed the text message that offered “for-pay” CPR training classes and found that the message was simply an invitation to seek further information regarding the classes and therefore did not qualify as an advertisement. The Court concluded by stating that “common sense” tells us that providing information on health-related courses such as CPR is “undoubtedly informational.” As such, the Court held that defendants’ conduct did not violate the TCPA.

The Court’s opinion is not only a life-saver for the American Heart Association, but also provides some clarity for other health care companies and non-profit organizations facing potential TCPA liability.