Judge Grants MSJ in FDCPA Case Over Dispute Letters Never Received By Agency

A District Court judge in Wisconsin has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked standing to file his lawsuit, but even if he had standing the defendant still would have had its motion granted because it was entitled to the statute’s bona fide error defense related to how it handled incoming mail.

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

The plaintiff claims that his counsel mailed two letters to the defendant disputing the debts that were attempting to be collected, but that the defendant never marked the accounts as disputed when reporting them to the credit bureaus. The letters sent by the attorney included the plaintiff’s name, address, and Social Security numbers, but not his account number. The defendant claimed that it never received either letter.

Ultimately, the plaintiff claimed he had standing to sue because of four injuries he suffered — (1) the risk of financial harm caused by inaccurate information on his credit report; (2) the “reputational harm” caused by the defendant communicating erroneous information to credit reporting agencies; (3) emotional distress; and (4) time and “resources” expended because of the defendant’s alleged violation of the FDCPA.

Going through each of the arguments, Judge James D. Peterson of the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin found none of the plaintiff’s arguments convincing. The plaintiff did not demonstrate how his financial health was harmed, he didn’t demonstrate how his credit score was affected to illustrate reputational harm, being confused and aggravated is not enough to confer standing, and the resources he incurred as a result of the alleged violation are “self-inflicted” because the defendant did nothing to encourage the plaintiff to file the suit, Judge Peterson noted.

Even if the plaintiff had standing, the defendant’s policies and procedures — detailed in the ruling — were sufficient that it would be entitled to the bona fide error defense, Judge Peterson ruled.

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