A District Court judge in Florida Thursday rejected a collection agency’s motion to reconsider his earlier decision to certify a class of defendants in a case seeking damages under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

In his order, U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. wrote, “Reconsideration is appropriate only in very limited circumstances, none of which are presented here.”

Judge Scola used sharper language later in the order, noting, “The Defendants may not present arguments, lose, and then say, ‘wait, actually, here’s another reason why class certification is improper.’ The parties’ arguments should not be moving targets, like clay pigeons, that the Court is forced to repeatedly chase after and shoot down. The reconsideration device is not designed ‘to permit losing parties to prop up arguments previously made or to inject new ones,’ nor ‘to relieve a party of the consequences of its original, limited presentation.’”

The case, Stephen M. Manno, et al. v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group LLC, et al., was filed in 2011 and also names the hospital operator as a defendant.

Stephen Manno, the proposed class representative, received medical treatment in the emergency room at Memorial Hospital Pembroke. While at Memorial, Manno was treated by the hospital’s agent, an attending physician of Inphynet, the hospital’s operator. During the admissions process, Manno filled out paperwork and provided a cellular telephone number to the hospital. Manno claims that he did not expressly consent to use of the telephone number for debt collection purposes.

Medical services obtained from Inphynet are billed through a billing company, Health Care Financial Services (HCFS) and are referred to Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group (HRRG) for collection if the bill is not paid. All of the debts that HRRG collects for Inphynet are medical debts.

Manno did not pay for the services he received at Memorial, the debt went into default, and was referred to HRRG for collection. HRRG, in an effort to collect the hospital debt owed to Inphynet, called Manno using the telephone number he provided during the emergency room admissions process. The telephone number was in the name of his girlfriend, now wife, Shantal Surprenant.

On June 17, 2010, HRRG, on behalf of Inphynet, allegedly left the following prerecorded voicemail message for Manno in which it failed to identify itself as a debt collector:

This is HRRG calling. We look forward to helping you. Please return our call at 1-800-984-9115. Thank you.

This was allegedly the standard message HRRG was using in June of 2010 to contact consumers.

So Manno sued HRRG and Inphynet on June 15, 2011. He sought class action certification for the suit claiming that the conditions were right for such a ruling.

Judge Scola agreed with Manno in March, ruling that the class met the prerequisites for certification.

On Thursday, Scola did agree to tweak the class definitions to allow only former patients that provided Florida addresses to the hospital at time of admission. He also permited the Plaintiff to withdraw his request for willful and knowing damages on behalf of the TCPA class.

 

 


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