Many in the industry have lauded a series of rulings released in the past year that have raised the bar for plaintiffs to establish they have suffered an actual, concrete injury in order to have standing to sue. This has created a new dynamic, where plaintiffs are opting to file lawsuits in state courts — which have different, often lower bars, to establish standing — while defendants try to argue that the plaintiffs did suffer a concrete injury and their cases should be heard in federal court. In many of those cases, like the class action in question here, judges are siding with the plaintiffs and granting motions to remand cases back to state court, from whence they came. This might be one of those unintended consequences that people talk about all the time.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Avina v. Qualia Collection Services can be accessed by clicking here.
In this case, the plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant, which itemized the principal, interest, and fees that were owed. Because the letter referenced fees and interest, the plaintiff claims to have believed that both were continuing to accrue on the underlying debt. But that was not the case, because the debt had already been charged off. The plaintiff claims that the letter thus violates Section 1692e of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it failed to inform him that interest and fees were not accruing on the debt.
The defendant argued that the case should stay in federal court because portion of the validation statement that indicates the defendant would “obtain verification of the debt or a copy of the judgment against you and have such verification or judgment mailed to you” would make the plaintiff believe there was no point in disputing the debt and that it was owed regardless of whether the plaintiff believed it to be true or not. Causing the plaintiff to alter his course of action and potentially put himself in harm’s way indicates that a concrete injury was suffered, the defendant claimed.
But the defendant overlooked one important word in that claim, ruled Judge Franklin U. Valderrama of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois — would.
“Defendant’s argument that Plaintiff sustained an injury-in-fact obscures and ignores the word ‘would,’ ” Judge Valderrama wrote. “As Plaintiff correctly points out, Defendant interprets that sentence to mean that Plaintiff did in fact change his course of action. Nothing in the Complaint, however, supports that conclusion.”