Appeals Court Vacates Dismissal of FDCPA Suit, But Only To Dismiss it For Other Reasons

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has vacated a lower court’s dismissal of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act suit in which the plaintiff claims the defendant overshadowed the validation notice, but only because it wants the District Court to dismiss the charges because the plaintiff lacks subject matter jurisdiction and not because she failed to state a claim.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Erica Cooper v. Atlantic Credit & Finance and Midland Funding, LLC can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received collection letters from each of the defendants in an attempt to collect on an unpaid credit card debt. Those letters included the validation notice required under the FDCPA. Ten days later, the defendants sent the plaintiff a second letter, indicating that one of the defendants was considering forwarding the case to an attorney for possible litigation and presenting two payment options. The letter also included the statement, “These payment opportunities do not alter or amend your validation rights as described in the previous letter to you.”

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the second letter improperly overshadowed validation notice and violated Section 1692f of the FDCPA by using unfair or unconscionable means to try and collect on a debt. A District Court judge granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

But because the plaintiff never alleged that she would have disputed the debt if she had not received the second letter and that her confusion was the reason why she did not dispute the debt or choose one of the payment options, she never established a concrete injury under Article III of the Constitution, which is required for a federal lawsuit, the Appeals Court ruled.

“Considering the ‘history’ of the common law and ‘the judgment of Congress’ in enacting the FDCPA, we found that both factors cut against finding these kinds of intangible injuries to be sufficient to constitute a concrete injury for purposes of Article III standing,” the Appeals court wrote in its ruling.

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