PDR Network, LLC,. v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: November 13, 2018
  • Case #: 17-1705
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 883 F.3d 459 (4th Cir. 2018)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Hobbs Act required the district court in this case to accept the FCC's legal interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Petitioner, PDR, delivers health information services. Respondent maintains a chiropractic clinic. Petitioner publishes the Physicians’ Desk Reference©, a informational booklet regarding prescription drugs. Petitioner receives fees from pharmaceutical companies for including their drugs in the booklet. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("the TCPA") prohibits sending "unsolicited advertisements" through fax. Recipients may recover $500 per violation against those who "knowingly or willfully" send unsolicited fax ads. One FCC order interprets the TCPA to prohibit promoting goods, even if at no cost. The Hobbs Act permits judicial review of such orders.  Respondent sued Petitioner for sending an unsolicited fax advertising the booklet. The District Court disagreed with Respondent's contention that Petitioner's fax satisfied the FCC’s rule, because it was an ad “even though it did not offer anything for sale.” Respondent argued that, pursuant to the Hobbs Act, the District Court should defer to the FCC's own interpretation of what constitutes an unsolicited ad. The District Court Dismissed the case.

On appeal, a divided Fourth Circuit panel ruled that the Hobbs Act requires a district court to apply FCC interpretations of the TCPA and that the District Court erred by declining to to defer’ to the FCC rule. The majority held that a Petitioner’s fax was an “advertisement” under the TCPA. Petitioner asks the Supreme Court to resolve whether the lower courts may set aside an administrative order and resolve the circuit split on this question.

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