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Hale v. Natera, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 28, 2019

TERESA HALE, Plaintiff,
v.
NATERA, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO. 27

          MAXINE M. CHESNEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is defendant Natera, Inc.'s ("Natera") Motion to Dismiss, filed June 18, 2019. Plaintiff Teresa Hale ("Hale") has filed opposition, to which Natera has replied. Having read and considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, the Court rules as follows.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         In her complaint, Hale alleges she has a cellular phone number "for which [she] is charged for incoming calls and text messages." (See Compl. ¶ 35.) Hale alleges that, on April 25, 2018, she received the following text message on her cellular phone:

Natera received a test order from your doctor! Track your test in our Patient Portal (https://my.natera.com/users/signup) using Case ID 1777499. Reply STOP to opt out.

(See Compl. ¶ 1 and Ex. 1.) Hale further alleges she "knew nothing about" such a test and "had never heard of" Natera (see id.), let alone provided Natera "consent" to send her text messages (see Compl. ¶ 34). According to Hale, Natera "utilized" an "automatic telephone dialing system" ("ATDS") to send her the above-quoted text message. (See Compl. ¶¶ 12, 27.)

         Based on the above-cited allegations, Hale asserts Natera violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA").

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Rule 8(a)(2), however, "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Consequently, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations." See id. Nonetheless, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." See id. (internal quotation, citation, and alteration omitted).

         In analyzing a motion to dismiss, a district court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual material, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         DISCUSSION

         Under the TCPA, it is unlawful to "make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior consent of the called party) using any automatic telephone dialing system . . . to any telephone number assigned to a . . . cellular telephone service . . . for which the called party is charged for the call." See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1).[2] The TCPA defines an ATDS as "equipment which has the capacity - (A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers." See 47 U.S.C. § 227(a)(1). The Ninth Circuit has interpreted such definition as comprising two types of equipment, specifically, equipment that has the capacity "to store numbers to be called" and "to dial such numbers," as well as equipment that has the capacity "to produce numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator" and "to dial such numbers." See Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC, 904 F.3d 1041, 1052 (9th Cir. 2018).[3]

         Natera argues Hale fails to plead facts sufficient to support a finding that Natera used an ATDS when it allegedly sent Hale the text message on which she bases her claim.

         To survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff asserting a TCPA claim "need not somehow have inside knowledge of a defendant's operations and equipment"; rather, "she merely must proffer factual allegations that support a reasonable inference that an ATDS was used." See Brown v. Collections Bureau of America, Ltd., 183 F.Supp.3d 1004, 1005 (N.D. Cal. 2016). Where a TCPA claim is based on the receipt of a text message, courts have found various types of factual allegations suffice to support a reasonable inference the defendant used an ATDS to send it. For example, claims have been found sufficiently pleaded where it was alleged the text was "formatted in SMS short code licensed to defendants, scripted in an impersonal manner and sent en masse," see Kazemi v. Payless Shoesource Inc., 2010 WL 963225, at *3 (N.D. Cal. March 16. 2010), where the recipient was requested to type a one-word response to interact with the text, e.g., "Yes," see Meyer v. Bebe Stores, Inc., 2015 WL 431148, at *4 (N.D. Cal. February 2, 2015), see also Armstrong v. Investor's Business Daily, Inc., 2018 WL 6787049, at *6 (C.D. Cal. December 21, 2018) (listing, among examples of pleadings ...


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