Judge Rules Plaintiff Lacks Standing in Hunstein Copycat Case, Remands it Back to State Court

This is one of those cases where I feel like I need to make the “I’m not a lawyer” disclaimer because, to me, this looks like one of those “good news, bad news” type of cases, but there might be sides to this that I am not seeing. A District Court judge in Illinois has ruled that a plaintiff in a Hunstein copycat case does not have standing to sue — the good news — so he has remanded the case back to state court where it was originally filed — the bad news.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Liu v. MRS BPO can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff alleged the defendant violated Section 1692c(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sharing information about her — her name and address, status as a debtor, and details of the alleged debt — with a third-party that printed and mailed collection letters on behalf of the defendant. This is a claim that has been made thousands of times in the months following the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals’s ruling in Hunstein v. Preferred Management & Collection Services. In this case, the defendant removed the case to federal court and asserted that the plaintiff did not have standing because she did not suffer a concrete injury, only to have the plaintiff file a motion to remand the case back to state court. Judge Ronald A. Guzman of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied the motion to remand, but asked the defendant to file a brief establishing the plaintiff’s standing to sue in federal court.

In looking at a sequence of rulings on the issue of standing — starting with the original ruling from the Eleventh Circuit in Hunstein, then moving to the Supreme Court’s ruling in TransUnion v. Ramirez, before getting to the restated ruling from the original Hunstein panel, Judge Guzman did not have to work hard to find that the plaintiff in this case did not suffer a concrete injury.

Taking a line from Judge Tjoflat’s dissent in the second Hunstein ruling, Judge Guzman said, the “simple transmission of information along a chain that involves one extra link because a company uses a mail vendor to send out the letters about debt is not a harm at which Congress was aiming.”

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