Judge Dismisses FDCPA Case About Letters to Collect on Discharged Debt For Lack of Standing

A District Court judge has ruled that a plaintiff does not have standing to sue a collector that sent two collection letters seeking to collect on a debt that had been discharged in bankruptcy in which the letters indicated that the collector would update “credit data it may have” already submitted in exchange for payment.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Pucillo v. National Credit Systems can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff filed for bankruptcy protection and listed a past-due debt owed for his apartment rental on the petition, a debt that he had disputed. The defendant subsequently sent two collection letters to the plaintiff, demanding payment on the unpaid debt. The letters informed the plaintiff that in exchange for payment on the discharged debt, it would “update credit data it may have previously submitted regarding this debt.” The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letters violated Section 1692c and 1692e of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because he was confused about whether his bankruptcy petition had included the debt in question and that he was not obtaining the “fresh start” that he should receive. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment, which Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana was set to rule on when she first sought to determine whether the plaintiff had standing to file his lawsuit.

In looking at the spate of cases that have come out on the topic of standing from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently, Judge Pratt determined that the “confusion and concern” suffered by the plaintiff about whether he would have to pay the debt, whether the debt was properly included in the bankruptcy filing, and how his credit score would be effective did not rise to the level of a concrete injury.

“The Seventh Circuit has been clear that, without more, confusion, stress, concern, and fear are not enough to support a concrete injury in FDCPA Section 1692e and Section 1692c cases.,” Judge Pratt wrote. “This is all that Pucillo has alleged. Therefore, his claims must be dismissed because of a lack of injury in fact and lack of standing.”

The plaintiff also attempted to argue that the comment in the letter about reporting the debt was not enough to confer standing, because the defendant did not definitively say it would report the information, only that it may do so.

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