In Franklin v. Navient, Inc., No. 1:17-cv-1640-SB, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74265, at *1-2 (D. Del. Apr. 19, 2021), Judge Bibas allowed a TCPA claim to proceed.
“[J]udicial decisionmaking” after the fact “necessarily involves some peril to individual expectations.” Rivers v. Roadway Express, Inc., 511 U.S. 298, 312 (1994). Na-vient may have to learn that the hard way. It robocalled Ricky Franklin for years to collect on his government-backed student loans. Although many types of robocalls are illegal, a federal law said that Navient’s were exempt. Yet after Navient made the calls, the Supreme Court struck down the government-debt exception. And now Franklin is suing. Navient responds that it should not be liable for calls that were legal at the time. But the calls were not legal at the time. When a court finds a law unconstitutional, it finds that the law was void since the day it was passed. So the robocalling ban never had a valid exception for government debt. Navient cannot rely on one. And while it reasonably thought it was covered by the exception, that is no defense to paying compensation. Yet Franklin wants more than compensation; he wants punitive damages. And due process bans punishing parties without fair notice. By (mistakenly) saying that Navient’s calls were allowed, Congress deprived it of fair notice. So if Franklin wins at trial, he may recover damages—but only to compensate him for the injuries he can prove.