Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Case Over Alleged Third-Party Disclosure

Who else but the recipient of a collection letter and the mail carrier who delivered it would have access to that letter to see a mini-Miranda statement that had bled through an envelope, asked a District Court judge in Illinois when granting a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, ruling that hypothetical third-party disclosures and a state of confusion is not enough for the plaintiff’s case to continue.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Stone v. Medical Business Bureau can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant in which the mini-Miranda statement was clear in normal light to anyone looking at the envelope. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated Section 1692f(8) of the FDCPA by disclosing information about a debt to third parties, and Section 1692g(a)(2) because the letter did not clearly state the name of the creditor to whom the debt was owed because he did not recognize the name of the healthcare provider. His state of confusion led him to contact an attorney, he claims.

In first looking at whether the plaintiff had standing to pursue his claims, Judge Virginia Kendall of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois determined that not only had the plaintiff not sufficiently met the standard for a well-pleaded Complaint, but that his arguments about the third-party disclosure did “not hold up to common sense.” Even if the contents of the letter were visible, who would have seen them, Judge Kendall asked. “The fact that the debt collection letter could potentially be seen through the envelope is a remote harm and there is no allegation that makes this a plausible injury,” she wrote.

Related to the claim that the letter failed to correctly identify the creditor to whom the debt was owed, which led to the plaintiff contacting an attorney, that, too, did not meet the standard for a concrete injury, Judge Kendall ruled. The plaintiff did not lose any money. And, as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Brunett v. Convergent Outsourcing, seeking legal advice is not enough for a plaintiff to have standing to sue.

Judge Kendall did give the plaintiff 21 days to amend his complaint.

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