Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss, Rules Content of Letter Qualifies as Concrete Injury

A federal judge in Oklahoma has denied a motion to dismiss a case after a debt collector was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by informing the plaintiff in a letter that the amount she owed would “significantly increase” if a garnishment was filed, after the defendant had obtained a judgment on the unpaid debt.

A copy of the ruling in Cooper v. Stephen Bruce & Associates can be accessed by clicking here.

The defendant had already been successful in having a portion of the complaint — which alleged it violated Section 1692f of the FDCPA — dismissed. It was attempting to have the remaining count — an alleged violation of Section 1692e — dismissed. The defendant argued the plaintiff failed to state a claim because she did not suffer a concrete injury in filing the motion to dismiss.

The plaintiff argued that the letter violated Section 1692e of the FDCPA because it “violated her statutory right to be free from abusive debt collection practices by subjecting her to false, deceptive, or misleading representations.”

In looking at other cases both at the District and Appellate levels, Judge David Russell of the District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ruled that the letter was enough to rise to the level of a concrete injury. Particularly, a ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Macy v. GC Services Ltd. Partnership, which ruled that Congress intended to use the FDCPA to protect individuals from abusive collection tactics that “contribute to . . . personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.”

Wrote Judge Russell: “Thus, where a plaintiff alleges that a defendant violated the FDCPA by including a materially misleading statement in a debt-collection letter — like the plaintiff in Macy and plaintiff here — she need not allege any further harm to demonstrate a concrete injury for purposes of constitutional standing.”

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