Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of FDCPA Class-Actions, But For Lack of Standing

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of a pair of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act class-action letter lawsuits — but on different grounds than originally dismissed — because the plaintiffs never identified a concrete injury that was suffered as a result of what was said in the letters.

A copy of the ruling in the cases of Larkin and Sandri v. Finance System of Green Bay can be accessed by clicking here.

Larkin received a collection letter from the defendant that included the following statements: “You want to be worthy of the faith put in you by your creditor … . We are interested in you preserving a good credit rating with the above creditor.”

Sandri meanwhile, received three letters from the defendant. The first letter said, in part, “Your creditor is interested in you preserving a good credit rating with them.” The second letter said, “You do not want to lose our confidence. You want to be worthy of the faith put in you by your creditor … .” And the final letter said, “[y]our creditor has placed your bill for collection. To avoid errors and to clear your credit record with the above creditor, send or bring your payment to our office, or pay online … .”

Both plaintiffs alleged the letters violated Sections 1692e and 1692f of the FDCPA. A District Court judge dismissed both lawsuits, ruling that both plaintiffs had failed to state a claim.

The Seventh Circuit never made it that far in deciding the cases should be dismissed. Looking at a pair of rulings it had previously issued in Casillas v. Madison Avenue Associates and Lavallee v. Med-1 Solutions, the Appeals Court ruled that while the plaintiffs in these two cases alleged that the statements in the letters they received were false, deceptive, or misleading or unfair and unconscionable, neither complaint contained “any allegation of harm — or even an appreciable risk of harm — from the statutory violation.”

Chief Judge Diane Sykes, who authored the opinion in both cases, noted that the panel gave the plaintiff’s attorney “several opportunities” during oral argument to identify a concrete injury that the plaintiffs may have suffered.

“In sum, the plaintiffs seek to invoke the power of the federal courts to litigate an alleged FDCPA violation that did not injure them in any concrete way, tangible or intangible,” the Appeals Court wrote.

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