The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently held that patients who provided their cell phone numbers to a hospital during the admissions process had given "prior express consent" to receive automated phone calls for collections purposes, as required under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"). The decision in Baisden v. Credit Adjustments, Inc. affirmed the judgment of the district court, which had entered summary judgment for the debt collector hired to make the phone calls.
The dispute arose after two patients received medical care from a hospital in Ohio. Upon admission to the hospital, the patients signed a "Patient Consent and Authorization" form. The form authorized the hospital to release their health information to companies who provide billing services for physicians or other providers involved in their medical care. During the patients' hospital stays, they received care from an anesthesiology group operating within the hospital. When the patients failed to pay for the anesthesiology services, the anesthesiology group transferred the patients' accounts to a debt collector, Credit Adjustments, to collect the unpaid balances. Credit Adjustments used an automated telephone dialing system and prerecorded messages to contact the patients on their cell phones. The patients claimed that Credit Adjustments' phone calls violated the TCPA because the patients never provided their "prior express consent."
In affirming the district court's judgment, the Sixth Circuit held that the patients gave express consent to receive phone calls by providing their cell phone numbers to the hospital, even though the patients had not provided their cell phone numbers directly to the anesthesiology group or to Credit Adjustments. The court found that by virtue of signing the consent form, the patients expressly authorized the hospital to release their health information, which included their cell phone numbers, for billing purposes.
The Sixth Circuit's decision in Baisden follows the Eleventh Circuit's similar recognition that a plaintiff's provision of his phone number, coupled with an agreement to be contacted, qualifies as "prior express consent" under the TCPA. By recognizing that "prior express consent" may be granted in such a way, Baisden provides helpful clarity for healthcare providers, their affiliates, and vendors who face potential TCPA liability.