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Sterling v. Securus Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 25, 2019

HAROLD STERLING, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
SECURUS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. ET AL., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Harold Sterling, Christopher Shuckra, David Myles, and Marlon Braithwaite (“Plaintiffs”) are suing Securus Technologies, Inc. (“Securus”), ABRY Partners (“ABRY”), Platinum Equity LLC (“Platinum”), and AT&T Corp. (“AT&T”) (together “Defendants”) for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. §§ 227, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-110a et seq., and unjust enrichment. First Am. Compl. (“First Amended Complaint”) at 10-13, ECF No. 56.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss all counts. Securus Technologies, Inc.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' First Am. Compl., ECF No. 60; Def. Platinum Equity, LLC's Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' First Am. Compl., ECF No. 62; Def. AT&T Corp.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 8 & Rule 12(b)(6), ECF No. 66; Mot. of Def. ABRY Partners VII, LP to Dismiss First Am. Compl., ECF No. 69.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motions to dismiss, ECF No. 60, 62, 66, 69.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Mr. Sterling, Mr. Shuckra, Mr. Myles, and Mr. Braithwaite, allegedly citizens of Connecticut, First Amended Complaint at 1, are or have been incarcerated in various Connecticut Department of Corrections facilities.[1] Id. at 1-2. Defendant Securus is allegedly “a privately held corporation headquartered in Dallas, Texas that provides managed telecommunications services at federal, state, and local correctional facilities . . . throughout the United States.” Id. at 2. Securus allegedly contracted with the State of Connecticut's Department of Correction (“Department of Correction”) to provide inmate calling services (“ICS”) to inmates in Connecticut. Id. Co-Defendants ABRY and Platinum allegedly own Securus. Id. at 1, n.A.[2]

         While incarcerated in Connecticut Department of Correction facilities, Plaintiffs claim to have “utilized the Securus phones to make phone calls.” Id. at 11. They also allegedly “maintained Securus accounts in their name while not incarcerated to received and pay for calls using Securus from incarcerated family and friends.” Id. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that they and other inmates used “prepaid AdvanceConnect” accounts provided by Securus to make calls, and that they funded such accounts via credit cards. Id. at 2.

         Securus allegedly charged Plaintiffs “unjust, unreasonable, unfair and/or deceptive amounts for intrastate phone calls within Connecticut, including rates that were inflated by Securus to cover the payment of commissions to correctional facilities in exchange for being awarded exclusive ICS provider contracts.” Id. at 1. Plaintiffs claim that the “concession fees” or alleged “kickbacks” to Securus ran as high as “68% of [the] revenue generated from inmate telephone calls” under the Connecticut Department of Correction contract. Id. at 4.

         As a result of Securus' alleged “monopol[y], ” “families of incarcerated individuals [allegedly] often pay significantly more to receive a single 15-minute call from prison than for their basic monthly phone service.” Id. at 2. Securus also allegedly charged Plaintiffs “unjust and unreasonable” deposit fees when each of Plaintiffs funded their “AdvanceConnect” accounts via credit cards. Id. Plaintiffs also claim that Securus made “unauthorized robo calls” to each of them on multiple occasions between January 1, 2015 and July 1, 2017.” Id. at 11.

         Plaintiffs assert three causes of action against Defendants: (1) violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act; (2) violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act; and (3) unjust enrichment. First Am. Compl. at 10-13.

         B. Procedural History

         On February 23, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in Connecticut Superior Court, Judicial District of Waterbury. Compl.

         On August 8, 2018, Defendants removed the case under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367, 1441, and 1446. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.

         On August 15, 2018, Defendants filed motions to dismiss. Mot. of Def. ABRY Partners to Dismiss Compl., ECF No. 24; Def. AT&T Corp.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 8 & 12(B)(6), ECF No. 27; Def. Platinum Equity's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 29; see also Def. Platinum Equity's Mem. in Supp. of its Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 30 Defs.' Omnibus Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 31.

         From August to December of 2018, Plaintiffs moved for seven extensions of time to respond to Defendants' motions to dismiss. Mot. for Extension of Time to File Am. Compl. & to Object to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 43; Mot. for Extension of Time to File Am. Compl. & Object to Pending Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 47; Mot. for Extension of Time to File Am. Compl. & Object to Pending Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 49; Final Mot. for Extension of Time to File Am. Compl. & Object to Pending Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 51; Mot. for Extension of Time to File Am. Compl. & Object to Pending Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 54; see also Order Granting Pls.' Mot. for Extension of Time to Respond, ECF No. 48; Order Granting Pls.' Mot. for Extension of Time to Respond, ECF No. 50; Order Granting Pls.' Mot. for Extension of Time to Respond, ECF No. 52; Order Granting Pls.' Mot. for Extension of Time, ECF No. 55.

         On December 13, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint. First Am. Compl., ECF No. 56.

         On December 21, 2018, Defendants moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b) and Civil Local Rule 7(b) for an extension of time until February 1, 2019 to respond to Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. Defs.' Mot. for Extension of Time to Respond to First Am. Compl., ECF No. 57.

         On December 26, 2018, the Court granted Defendants' motion for an extension of time. Order Granting Defs.' Mot. for Extension of Time, ECF No. 58.

         On February 1, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss the counts in the First Amended Complaint. Securus Technologies, Inc.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' First Am. Compl., ECF No. 60; Def. Platinum Equity, LLC's Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' First Am. Compl., ECF No. 62; Def. AT&T Corp.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 8 & Rule 12(B)(6), ECF No. 66; Mot. of Def. ABRY Partners VII, LP to Dismiss First Am. Compl., ECF No. 69.

         From February to May of 2019, Plaintiffs moved for five extensions of time to respond to Defendants' motions to dismiss. Pl.'s Mot. for Extension of Time to Object to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 82; Pl.'s Second Mot. for Extension of Time to Object to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 85; Pl.'s Third Mot. for Extension of Time to Object to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 87; Pl.'s Final Mot. for Extension of Time to Object to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 89; Pl.'s Mot. for Extension of Time to Object to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 90; see also Order Granting Pl.'s Mot. for Extension of Time to File Resps., ECF No. 83; Order Granting Pl.'s Mot. for Extension of Time to File Resp., ECF No. 86; Order Granting Pl.'s Mot. for Extension of Time to File Resp., ECF No. 88.

         On May 9, 2019, Defendant ABRY opposed Plaintiffs' motion for an extension of time. Opp'n of Def. ABRY to Pls.' Mot for Extension of Time to Object to Defs.' Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 91.

         On May 10, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for extension of time until May 24, 2019 to file responses. Order Granting Pl.'s Mot. for Extension of Time to File Resps., ECF No. 92.

         On June 20, 2019, Plaintiffs' objected to Defendants Securus and Platinum's motions to dismiss. Pls.' Obj. to Defs. Securus & Platinum's Mots. to Dismiss, ECF No. 97.

         On July 23, 2019, the date of the hearing on all pending motions, oral argument did not go forward as scheduled. Min. Entry, ECF No. 101.[3]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Any claim that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” will be dismissed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), a court applies a “plausibility standard” guided by “two working principles.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         First, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.; see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (“While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” (internal citations omitted)). Second, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Thus, the complaint must contain “factual amplification . . . to render a claim plausible.” Arista Records LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 120 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Turkmen v. Ashcroft, 589 F.3d 542, 546 (2d Cir. 2009)).

         When reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court takes all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The court also views the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and draws all inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Cohen v. S.A.C. Trading Corp., 711 F.3d 353, 359 (2d Cir. 2013); see also York v. Ass'n of the Bar of the City of New York, 286 F.3d 122, 125 (2d Cir. 2002) (“On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, we construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting the complaint's allegations as true.”), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 1089 (2002).

         Pro se complaints “must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); cf. Teichmann v. New York, 769 F.3d 821, 825 (2d Cir. 2014) (“Although we liberally construe Teichmann's pro se amended complaint, we still require that he plead facts sufficient to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”) (citing Triestman, 470 F.3d at 474, and quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (internal quotation marks omitted); Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015) (“Because Fowlkes appeared pro se before the District Court, he is ‘entitled to special solicitude,' and we will read his pleadings ‘to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.' . . . . At the same time, a pro se complaint must allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”) (quoting Triestman, 470 F.3d at 477; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Claims against AT&T

         AT&T argues that the Court should dismiss all claims against it because Plaintiffs have alleged “no facts whatsoever . . . against AT&T” and did not name AT&T in the First Amended Complaint. Def. AT&T Corp.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 8 & Rule 12(B)(6) at 1.

         The Court agrees.

         Plaintiffs have alleged no relevant conduct or connection to AT&T, and it appears that Plaintiffs no longer intend to name AT&T as a party to this lawsuit. See First Am. Compl. As a result, Plaintiffs have failed to state a plausible claim for relief against AT&T. Fowlkes, 790 F.3d at 387 (“At the same time, a pro se complaint must allege ...


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