A District Court judge in Florida went to great lengths to spell out exactly why a plaintiff lacked standing to sue in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case in which she alleged a collection law firm did not engage in meaningful attorney involvement before sending a validation notice on an unpaid debt.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Crowder v. Andreu, Palma, Lavin & Solis can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff defaulted on a laser hair removal debt, which was purchased by Midland Funding. Midland sent the plaintiff a letter and then placed the debt with the defendant for collection and assessment of litigation. The defendant sent its own validation notice, on firm letterhead, which listed several attorneys. The validation notice, which was not signed, did not threaten or contemplate legal action.
Two weeks after receiving the letter from the defendant, the plaintiff filed her lawsuit, alleging the letter violated Sections 1692e, 1692e(3), 1692e(10), and 1692f of the FDCPA.
Judge Sheri Polster Chappell of the District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division, lays out the argument why the plaintiff lacked standing to file her lawsuit in great detail, starting with a rhetorical question — at what point allegations of emotional distress become sufficient enough to confer standing to file a lawsuit in federal court. Judge Chappell said figuring that out doesn’t really matter, because wherever it is, the plaintiff is “on the wrong side.”
The plaintiff claimed the letter from the defendant caused her “stress, confusion, and emotional distress” along with a “fear” that she would be sued. Yet, during her deposition, the plaintiff never testified to any facts showing concrete emotional distress, Judge Chappell noted. “Crowder provided nothing except the general statement she was worried about a lawsuit,” the judge wrote. “But at summary judgment, this broad concern about potential legal action over a defaulted debt does not rise to the level of a concrete injury.”
The plaintiff appeared to be confused over several issues, including which letter — the one from Midland or the one from the defendant — that caused her stress and confusion, as well as what she should have been concerned about with respect to a meaningful attorney review case. The plaintiff said her emotional harm was that it looked like an attorney did not review the case before the letter was sent, not that an attorney did not spend enough time reviewing the account before sending the letter.
“Consider how the Letter did not identify the lawyer who reviewed the account,” Judge Chappell wrote. “Crowder said this was a problem because she wouldn’t know what lawyer to call and discuss the Debt. Yet Crowder neither tried to call APLS nor testified on wanting to, so this is a red herring.”
Judge Chappell continues to delve into all the reasons the plaintiff lacked standing to continue her lawsuit, summarizing that “if that wasted time is traceable to anyone, it’s directly traceable to Crowder and her counsel.”