Judge Rules for Defendant in FDCPA Glassine Window Case

There are no shortage of cases detailing the consequences of allowing an individual’s account number to be seen through the glassine portion of an envelope containing a collection letter, but a District Court judge in Illinois has settled the debate about what should happen when only a portion of an account number is visible through that window.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Brewer v. The Law Offices of Mitchell D. Blum & Associates can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that when looking at the glassine window portion of the envelope, part of his account number could be seen. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Section 1692f(8) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits using any language or symbol other than the debt collector’s address on an envelope when communicating with consumers via traditional mail.

The issue with the plaintiff’s case, however, is that he did not cite any precedents in which the disclosure of part of an account number was ruled to be an actionable harm under the FDCPA. Ultimately, ruled Judge Thomas M. Durkin of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the plaintiff did not explain “how anyone could learn anything about him using the partial account number.” Adding to the plaintiff’s shortcomings is that he did not plausibly allege that disclosure of a partial account number constituted a concrete harm, Judge Durkin noted in granting the motion to dismiss.

“The Court is skeptical that Brewer has plausibly alleged any ‘real risk,’ ” Judge Durkin wrote. “But even if he has, the Supreme Court recently clarified that a risk of harm constitutes an injury in fact only in the context of a claim for injunctive relief. In other words, prospective harm is sufficient to seek prospective relief; but a claim for damages must be accompanied by allegation of a ‘concrete harm’ that has already occurred. Brewer does not seek injunctive relief.”

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