Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Case Alleging Hunstein Disclosure

A District Court judge in Kansas has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, ruling that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue because she was confused about an alleged discrepancy in the balance of her debt after receiving several collection letters, but, perhaps more importantly, that the use of a third party letter vendor to process and mail the letters was not a concrete injury.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Shields v. Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received three collection letters from the defendant. The letters contained different balances but did not include explanations for the discrepancies. The initial letter also allegedly did not contain a disclosure that the balance was subject to increase due to interest, fees, and other charges. The plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint, adding a Hunstein count that the defendant violated the FDCPA by using a third-party to print and mail the letters.

The plaintiff accused the defendant of violation Sections 1692e(2)(A), 1692e(10), 1692g(a)(1), and 1692c(b) of the FDCPA. She alleged she was confused about the amount that was owed and whether interest was continuing to accrue on the debt. But that is not enough to assert a concrete injury in order to have standing to pursue a lawsuit, ruled Judge Holly L. Teeter of the District Court for the District of Kansas. Ultimately, the plaintiff alleged “no tangible harm,” Judge Teeter wrote. “Moreover, her confusion and mistaken belief are not tied to any intangible harm historically recognized by American courts.”

As for the Hunstein claim, Judge Teeter also made short work of the plaintiff’s argument. Applying the Supreme Court’s ruling in TransUnion v. Ramirez, the plaintiff needed to prove that a third party read the document in question and not just merely processed it, in order to have standing to sue. Even if the disclosure did confer standing for the plaintiff to sue, was it “highly offensive to a reasonable person” to learn that the plaintiff had student loan debt? That would be “hard to imagine,” Judge Teeter wrote.

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