In Eggleston v. Reward Zone USA LLC, No. 2:20-cv-01027-SVW-KS, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20928, at *11-14 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 28, 2022), Judge Wilson dismissed a TCPA “pre-recorded voice” case premised on the theory that the standard text messages that she received did not constitute a “voice” under the TCPA.

Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant’s text messages violated § 227(b) because they used an “artificial or prerecorded voice. The Court disagrees.  Neither the statute nor its implementing regulations provide a definition of what constitutes an “artificial or prerecorded voice.” Plaintiff’s argument relies on selective dictionary definitions for the words in this phrase, namely that “artificial” means “humanly contrived, often on a natural model;” “prerecorded” means “to set down in writing in advance of presentation or use;” and “voice” means “an instrument or medium of expression.” Opp. MTD 17. Thus, in Plaintiff’s view, Defendant’s text messages constituted an “artificial or prerecorded voice.”  Plaintiff’s interpretation is simply beyond the bounds of common sense. For one, the primary definition of “voice” in Webster’s dictionary is “sound produced by vertebrates by means of lungs, larynx, or syrinx; especially sound so produced by human beings.” Voice, Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, accessed Jan. 27, 2022. “An instrument or medium of expression” is only the tertiary definition of “voice.” Id. Webster’s tertiary definition includes an example sentence: “the party became the voice of the workers,” illustrating that this usage of ‘voice” has an almost metaphorical or symbolic connotation. See id.  Thus, Plaintiff’s interpretation conflicts with a primary principle of statutory interpretation — that words in a statute should generally be given their most natural understanding unless circumstances suggest otherwise. See Duguid, 141 S.Ct. at 1169. The most natural, commonplace understanding of “voice” is the sound produced by one’s vocal system. Indeed, it is not plausible that Congress intended the word “voice” in the TCPA to carry the tertiary, metaphorical meaning that Plaintiff suggests over this primary, natural meaning — especially since if Congress had intended to adopt Plaintiff’s broad meaning, it could have easily chosen clearer, more literal terms to do so, such as “medium of expression” or “communication.”  Tellingly, as Defendant points out, Plaintiff fails to point to even a single case interpreting “voice” in the TCPA in this strained way. See Opp. MTD 17-21. And Plaintiffs sweeping interpretation would lead to absurd results. Consider an ordinary individual who wants to invite ten guests to a party; she sends a text message to the first invitee, and then, to save time, copies that text and pastes it into messages to the other nine. Because the messages to the other nine were “prerecorded” (i.e., set down in writing ahead of time) and, in Plaintiffs interpretation, the messages constituted a “voice,” this would fall within the statute’s prohibition. It nearly goes without saying that Congress did not intend this sort of result in passing the TCPA to crack down on mass commercial solicitations that used automated telephonic technology.  Nor is Plaintiffs argument saved by her generic reference to the purposes of the TCPA as a “remedial statute intended to protect consumers.” As the Supreme Court noted in Duguid, the fact that Congress was broadly concerned about intrusive telemarketing does not mean that it intended to define every word in the TCPA in the broadest way possible. 141 S. Ct. at 1172. Indeed, as illustrated by the absurd result discussed above, Plaintiffs interpretation would “take a chainsaw” to the nuanced problems meant to be addressed by the TCPA “when Congress meant to use a scalpel.” Id. at 1171.  For all of these reasons, Plaintiff’s interpretation of an “artificial or prerecorded voice” lacks support. Defendant’s text messages were just that — text messages. Given the natural meaning of “voice” as the sound produced by one’s vocal chords, Defendant’s text messages do not constitute a ‘voice” under the TCPA. Thus, since Defendant’s text messages did not involve an “automatic telephone dialing system” or an “artificial or prerecorded voice,” Plaintiff’s claims under § 227(b) fail as a matter of law. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s first and second causes of action are dismissed without leave to amend.