Blocking Discovery with Blocked Calls

A Plaintiff propounded a Rule 45 request on a phone company to disclose the name and phone number associated with a blocked call. The Court denied the motion to compel the information.  Lindsey v. PNC Mortg., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74481, 3 (D. Haw. May 30, 2012).

The lawsuit involved the Plaintiff receiving a profane voicemail from a blocked phone number related to her mortgage. The Plaintiff claimed the voicemail caused her emotional distress, humiliation, and mental suffering. The Plaintiff sued on various Fair Debt Collection Practices Act theories, but did not name the person who left her the voicemail.  Lindsey, at *2.  

After the Court granted the original Defendants’ motion to dismiss, the Plaintiff sought to name the voicemail caller as a Defendant. Lindsey, at *2-3.  

The Plaintiff brought a third-party subpoena on T-Mobile to disclose the phone number of the blocked caller to identify the Doe Defendant. Lindsey, at *4.

Unfortunately, 47 C.F.R. § 64.1601 (hereinafter Regulation 1601) left the Plaintiff only hearing a dial tone. Lindsey, at *5.

Regulation 1601 requires common carriers to recognize:

1) A caller’s request that the [calling party number] not be passed on an interstate call;

2) “No common carrier . . . that delivers [a calling number] may override the privacy indicator associated with an interstate call.”

3) Carriers “must arrange their . . . services . . . in such a manner that when a caller requests that the [calling number] not be passed, a carrier may not reveal that caller’s number or name, nor may the carrier use the number or name to allow the called party to contact the calling party.”

Lindsey, at *5.

Based on Regulation 1601, the Court denied the Plaintiff’s motion to compel the phone number of the blocked caller. Lindsey, at *10.

Bow Tie Thoughts

47 C.F.R. § 64.1601 can provide a significant roadblock to identifying a blocked caller in a lawsuit by a third-party request. Given the third-party request privacy limitations, parties seeking such information might have to propound special interrogatories on named defendants (such as a debt collector) to identify such doe defendants. This can become problematic if 1) there are no named defendants or 2) the named defendants cannot identify who made calls on their behalf.

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