Appeals court upholds prior express consent in robo-dialing suit

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld a lower court's ruling that a medical debt collection company did not violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act when it robo-dialed patients who gave "prior express consent."

The lawsuit at issue involved Credit Adjustment, a medical debt collection company affiliated with Mount CarmelHospital in Columbus, Ohio. The plaintiffs in the case alleged Credit Adjustment violated the TCPA when it placed debt collection calls to their cell phone numbers using an automatic telephone dialing system, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs argued neither Credit Adjustment nor Consultant Anesthesiologists, the creditor who hired Credit Adjustment, had obtained explicit permission to use the plaintiffs' cell phone numbers from the plaintiffs personally, according to the suit.

Credit Adjustment contended the collections company gained prior express consent when the plaintiffs provided their cell phone numbers to Mount Carmel Hospital, where they received care.

As part of the admissions process at Mount Carmel Hospital, both plaintiffs, Zachary Baisden and Brenda Sissoko, signed consent forms allowing the hospital to release their health information for services involving medical billing and debt collection, according to the court's opinion.   

The appeals court upheld a district court decision that sided with the defendant. The court held that Credit Adjustment and Consultant Anesthesiologist obtained prior express consent to call the plaintiffs' cell phones with automated dialers through the admission forms released by Mount Carmel. The court ruled third-party collection companies and contracted physicians groups are given express consent through the original hospital admission forms.

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