Sixth Circuit Jumps on Standing Bandwagon, Rules ‘Bare Anxiety’ Not Enough to Sue Under FDCPA

Joining its neighbor in the Seventh Circuit, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that confusion and anxiety are not sufficient grounds for a plaintiff to claim standing to sue in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, affirming a lower court’s dismissal of a case, albeit on different grounds than what was articulated by the District Court.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Garland v. Orlans can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiffs received a letter from the defendant after their mortgage had been referred for foreclosure. The letter offered the opportunity to contact the lender to have their account reviewed “for possible alternatives to foreclosure.” It was signed “Orlans PC.”

The plaintiffs sued, alleging the letter violated the FDCPA because it was not clear that it was sent by an attorney and that the attorney had not conducted a meaningful review of the case in question, or that of any of the thousands of people who were sent the same letter. A District Court judge dismissed the suit, which was appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

The Seventh Circuit has issued a number of rulings (herehereherehere, here, and here) in the past six months that address the issue of whether a plaintiff has standing to sue. The Sixth Circuit had previously ruled in Buchholz v. Meyer Njus Tanick, PA that someone who is afraid of being sued does not qualify as a concrete injury as it pertains to the FDCPA.

Citing Buchholz and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Spokeo v. Robins, the Sixth Circuit ruled that the two cases “create an insurmountable barrier for Garland because a bare allegation of anxiety is not a cognizable, concrete injury.” Making sure its point was made, the Sixth Circuit added, “A bare anxiety allegation is not the key to federal court for three reasons.”

Those reasons are:

  • A bare allegation of anxiety is an intangible harm without a close relationship to a harm required for providing a basis for a lawsuit
  • There is nothing in the FDCPA that indicates Congress intended to make anxiety a reason for suing
  • The anxiety in question in this case was “too speculative”

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