Judge Grants Preliminary Approval of Settlement in TCPA Suit Against Abacus Data

On Monday, Northern District of California Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. issued an order granting the plaintiff’s unopposed motion for preliminary approval for class action settlement against Abacus Data Systems Inc. for Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violations.

According to the plaintiff, Abacus sent unsolicited text messages using an automatic telephone dialing system to notify consumers that their accounts with “HotDocs,” a professional software service sold by Abacus, were out of date, and asking them to act by paying a $75 monthly “service fee.”

The case originated in 2019 when the plaintiff filed his complaint. After months of discovery, the parties engaged in a January mediation which culminated in a settlement agreement this June.

The present order certified two subclasses of individuals Abacus had purportedly solicited via text message. The first was the “Autodialed No Consent Class,” comprised of individuals who Abacus had contacted with certain prior written consent, or not, in the last four years. The second subclass certified was the “Not Call Registry Class,” sweeping in individuals contacted despite their enlistment in the do not call registry, subject to certain conditions, in the last four years.

The court determined that the $1.95 million non-reversionary settlement fund and accompanying conditions were “fair, adequate and reasonable,” at the preliminary approval stage. Additional terms required that Abacus implement certain policy changes to prevent sending unsolicited text messages by performing quarterly spot checks of telemarketing calls and tightening vendor requirements.

The court likewise approved the class notice plan with certain modifications and concluded that a class action was an efficient use of judicial and attorney resources while reducing costs to the class members by sharing it among them. The court reasoned that the class action mechanism served the resolution of TCPA cases like this one, where, “the interest of each class member in controlling the prosecution of a claim would be low, the forum is appropriate, and there are no obvious difficulties in managing this class action.”

The court further directed the parties to determine dates for seven upcoming settlement events through the final fairness hearing.

The plaintiff is represented by Kaufman, Ratner Molineaux, and the Law Offices of Stefan Coleman. The defendant is represented by Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo.