Yahoo has defeated a robo-texting lawsuit brought by a man who accused the company of allegedly sending him more than 27,000 text alerts meant for someone else.
The ruling, issued late last week, stems from a 2013 lawsuit brought by Philadelphia resident Bill Dominguez. He alleged that Yahoo sent him thousands of text alerts meant for the phone's previous owner, who apparently signed up for a former Yahoo service that converted emails to text messages and then forwarded them to users' phones.
Dominguez alleged in a class-action complaint that Yahoo violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits companies from using automated dialers to send SMS messages to consumers. He said in court papers that he complained about the messages to Yahoo, but was informed that only the phone's former owner could arrange to stop the texts. Dominguez also said he doesn't know the former owner or how to contact that person.
Yahoo said it was entitled to prevail in the matter because the system it used in 2013 to power the email-to-text service didn't meet the definition of "automated dialer."
In a ruling quietly issued late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Baylson in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agreed with the Web company.
Baylson said in a 47-page ruling that Dominguez didn't prove that Yahoo's system was capable of generating and calling "random or sequential" numbers.
The decision marked the second time that Baylson has dismissed the case on the grounds that Dominguez didn't show the company relied on an automated dialer.
Dominguez appealed the earlier dismissal to the 3rd Circuit, which revived the lawsuit. That court noted that the Federal Communications Commission had recently issued a ruling that expanded the definition of automated dialer.
When the FCC's ruling came out, former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler referenced Dominguez's situation. "If you have the bad luck of inheriting a wireless number from someone who wanted all types of robocalls, we have your back," he stated. "We have heard from consumers that getting stuck with a reassigned number can lead to horrible consequences. One consumer received 27,809 unsolicited text messages over 17 months to one reassigned number, despite their requests to stop the texts."
Dominguez has already filed papers to appeal Baylson's new ruling to the 3rd Circuit.