CALIFORNIA--The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California has approved the settlement terms of the
class action lawsuit Stemple v. QC Holdings.
The plaintiff, Paul Stemple,
filed a complaint against QC Holdings alleging it violated the Telephone
Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by contacting him – and others – via cell phone.
indicates the calls started in May 2012 and were an attempt by QC Holdings to “collect
an alleged debt alleged to be owed by a person other than plaintiff via an ‘automatic
telephone dialing system or prerecorded voice,’” which has been prohibited by
the TCPA. There were about 12 calls made to Stemple’s phone and he had not
granted approval to receive such calls.
Ross Andre, an attorney in class
action lawsuits, said the TCPA doesn’t deal with the difficulty that mobile phone
numbers can change hands frequently.
“They are strict
liability statutes that say, ‘if you make a call to a cell phone in these
certain ways you have violated the statute full stop,’” Andre told the Northern
QC Holdings denied it violated
the law but agreed to the settlement sum of $15 million. However, before it
agreed with the terms, it asked the district court to reconsider. It also sought
interlocutory review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The
company was unsuccessful with both applications.
The settlement had over 31,000 possible members who may
submit claims. According to a website
dedicated to the settlement, anyone in the United States with a 10-digit
cellular phone number that was called by QC Holdings with a pre-recorded voice
that attempted to collect an alleged debt between Aug. 13, 2008 and Aug.
13, 2012 can file a claim. In total there were 645 valid claims made, which
means each member will be getting about $1,208.
“This is pretty
in-line with what we see in TCPA settlements,” Andre said. He added that this
case was different in that it took years to settle. “You see a lot of cases that settle pretty quickly because
the prospect of liability is so enormous.”
documents indicate the litigation was in and out of mediations and
courtrooms for about three years.
While Andre said it did not set a
precedent, the case could still be a valuable decision for future litigation.
“Any settlement sets something of a guidepost for the
industry," he said. "So, this is one settlement that people can use, both plaintiffs and defendants,
going forward for a little bit of guidance on what might be the realm of possibilities
for settling a case that has this many class members or these allegations of
wrongdoing or what have you. It is coupled with the fact that the court approved the settlement,
so you know that, at least in the eye of this court, this is a fair and reasonable
settlement for these class members.'
Stemple was also awarded an incentive and had his attorney
fees and costs to counsel paid as well as the costs of notice and