A District Court judge in Illinois has used a recent series of rulings from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on standing to sue under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to grant a defendant’s motion for summary judgment, after the judge had already certified a class in the case, ruling that even going as far as to dispute a debt does not meet the standard of concrete injury in order to pursue a lawsuit.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Mack v. Resurgent Capital Services can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant. The plaintiff disputed the debt, and subsequently received a form letter that included language about how to dispute the debt. The plaintiff disputed the debt again and requested validation of the debt. Filing a second dispute caused the plaintiff stress and confusion and led her to unnecessarily spend time and money because she had to go to the library to print her dispute letter. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the second letter violated Sections 1692e and 1692f of the FDCPA because repeating the validation statement constituted a false or deceptive means to attempt to collect on the debt. The judge certified a class in the case, after which the defendant filed a motion to dismiss. Because both sides had already engaged in discovery, the judge converted the motion to a motion for summary judgment and then went to work.
The recent series of rulings from the Seventh Circuit have essentially taken care of the stress and confusion claims not conferring standing to sue under the FDCPA, but this case has the added wrinkle of the trip to the library to print the second letter. But even that does not meet the standard that the Seventh Circuit has set in terms of the type of injury that needs to be suffered in order for a plaintiff to have standing to sue under the FDCPA, ruled Judge Sara Ellis of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
“Had Mack taken some action related to her debt management choices, for example, ‘pa[id] something she [did] not owe, or [paid] a debt with interest running at a low rate when the money could have been used to pay a debt with interest running at a higher rate,’ she could show concrete harm,” wrote Judge Ellis. “Instead, Mack’s injury-spending time and money in an attempt to clear up her confusion concerning whether she had validly disputed the debt-is analogous to injuries arising from consultations with lawyers or filing suit, which the Seventh Circuit has held do not amount to concrete harm. If anything, the time and expense to which Mack went to ensure she properly disputed the debt, while potentially inconvenient, furthered her interests.”