Earlier this week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) lawsuit against General Dynamics Information Technology, Inc. (“GDIT”), on the basis that GDIT was immune from suit as a government contractor under what is known as the “Yearsley doctrine.” Craig Cunningham v. GDIT, No. 17-1592 (Apr. 24, 2018).
GDIT was hired to assist the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), a government agency, by calling individuals using an autodialer and a pre-approved script to provide information about their health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. When plaintiff Craig Cunningham received one of these calls, he filed a lawsuit alleging that GDIT had violated the TCPA for failing to obtain his prior consent.
The Fourth Circuit agreed with the lower court finding that GDIT was immune from suit under the Supreme Court’s Yearsley doctrine. In Yearsley, the Supreme Court held that the doctrine of sovereign immunity that traditionally applies to the U.S. government may be extended to government contractors in instances where (1) the government authorized the contractor’s actions in question; and (2) the government “validly conferred” such authorization. Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Construction Co., 309 U.S. 18, 20-21 (1940). More recently, the Supreme Court applied the Yearsley doctrine to the TCPA, holding that contractors may be exempt from TCPA claims so long as they are lawfully acting on behalf of the government. Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S. Ct. 663, 672 (2016).