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Datascope Anayltics, LLC; Hansen Ip Law, Pllc; and Robbie v. Comcast Cable Communications

May 17, 2013

DATASCOPE ANAYLTICS, LLC; HANSEN IP LAW, PLLC; AND ROBBIE SIMMONS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF CLASS OF SIMILARLY SITUATED ENTITIES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COMCAST CABLE COMMUNICATIONS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DuBois, J.

MEMORANDUM

I.INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Datascope Analytics, LLC, Hansen IP Law, PLLC, and Robbie Simmons have filed a class action lawsuit seeking to represent a class of Comcast Business Class Service customers who entered into Business Class Services contracts with defendant Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. for voice and/or internet services. Plaintiffs claim defendant charges Business Class Services customers fees contrary to their contracts, including an Early Termination Fee after the initial service term is completed, and an Internet Equipment Fee in excess of the amount specified in the contracts. Defendant has moved to dismiss plaintiffs' Class Complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court dismisses plaintiffs' Class Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

II.BACKGROUND

a.Prior Litigation

On December 6, 2012, plaintiffs filed a class complaint in the Northern District of Illinois, which was materially identical to the instant Class Complaint. (Def. Exhibit A.) Before plaintiffs filed a motion to certify the class in that case, defendant sent a letter to plaintiffs' counsel dated January 18, 2013 offering full and complete relief for all of plaintiffs' claims. (Def. Exhibit C.) Specifically, in the Northern District of Illinois case defendant offered (1) Datascope $635.70, the amount paid for services from the time it alleges it would have cancelled its service until the time it did cancel its service; (2) Hansen IP Law $337.00, the Early Termination Fee it paid; and (3) Robbie Simmons $134.88, the amount he paid for services after he alleged he gave notice of his intent to cancel his account in May 2012, plus $12.00 for the additional $2.00 per month in equipment fees he alleged he was charged from December 2011 until May 2012. (Id.) Defendant also offered to pay various court costs, fees, and reasonable attorneys' fees. (Id.) To Hansen IP Law, which was the only current Comcast Business Class Services customer, defendant offered to allow it to terminate the contract without paying an Early Termination Fee. (Id.) To all three plaintiffs, defendant offered to compensate additional damages, if documented. (Id.) Finally, defendant offered to cease all collection efforts and agreed to withdraw and/or correct any negative credit reports. (Id.)

On January 31, 2013, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the Northern District of Illinois case, pursuant Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i). (Def. Exhibit D.) On February 1, 2013, defendant emailed plaintiffs' counsel requesting information in order to process payments to plaintiffs, reaffirming its offer of complete relief. (Def. Exhibit E.) In response later that day, plaintiffs' counsel refused the offer of settlement and informed defendant that it had filed the instant case in this Court. (Def. Exhibit F.)

b.Instant Litigation

On February 1, 2013, plaintiffs filed the Class Complaint in this case, which is identical in all material respects to the one filed in the Northern District of Illinois on December 6, 2012.

(Def. Exhibit A.) Simultaneously with the filing of the Class Complaint, plaintiffs filed a Motion for Class Certification. Plaintiffs sought to certify a national class or, alternatively, an Illinois class, a Michigan class, and an Indiana class. On March 27, 2013, defendant filed the pending Motion to Dismiss.

III.LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint for "lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the Court first must determine whether the motion attacks the complaint on its face or on its facts. Carpet Group Int'l v. Oriental Rug Imps. Ass'n, 227 F.3d 62, 69 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.1977)). "Facial attacks ... contest the sufficiency of the pleadings, and the trial court must accept the complaint's allegations as true." Turicentro, S.A. v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 303 F.3d 293, 300 n.4 (3d Cir. 2002). In reviewing a facial attack, a court may rely on documents referenced within the complaint and attached thereto but must view them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 & n.6 (3d Cir. 2000); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). "In contrast, a trial court considering a factual attack accords plaintiff's allegations no presumption of truth" and "must weigh the evidence relating to jurisdiction, with discretion to allow affidavits, documents, and even limited evidentiary hearings." Turicentro, 303 F.3d at 300 n.4; see Gould Elecs., 220 F.3d at 178 (citing Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891).

In this case, defendant is mounting a factual attack on the Complaint. Article III of the Constitution of the United States provides that a federal court may exercise jurisdiction only where there is an actual case or controversy to be decided. See, e.g., Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108 (1969). Standing is a legal device, the "core component [of which] is an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement of Article III." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). Standing limits a plaintiff's ability to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts. "In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 489 (1975). As the standing requirement is derived from Article III, it is a threshold inquiry in every case, one for which "[t]he party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden" of proof. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561. To meet this burden, the party seeking federal jurisdiction must establish "the irreducible constitutional minimum of standing," which is composed of three elements:

First, the plaintiff must have suffered "an injury in fact"-an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) "actual or imminent, not 'conjectural' or 'hypothetical.'" Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of-the injury has to be "fairly ... trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant, and not ... th[e] result [of] the independent action of some third party not before the court." ...


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