A District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case in which a collection letter included multiple addresses for the defendant, allegedly confusing the plaintiff to the point where he felt his only option was to hand the letter over to his attorney and file a lawsuit.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Schmelczer v. Penn Credit Corp. can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant. The letter included a detachable payment coupon at the bottom of the page. There were three different mailing addresses on the coupon — one in the top-left corner for a P.O. Box, one for the plaintiff in the bottom-left corner, and one for the defendant in the bottom-right corner. The letter was mailed in an envelope that showed the addresses from the top-left and bottom-left of the coupon and included a separate envelope that could be used to send the coupon back to the defendant. The separate envelope included a window that displayed the defendant’s address from the bottom-right of the coupon.
The plaintiff claimed to have been confused on several letters upon receiving the letter. He did not believe he owed the debt in question, did not understand how to dispute the debt (instructions were in the letter), and did not know which address belonged to the defendant. The plaintiff also claimed to not want to call the defendant because he was afraid the defendant would try to get him to pay an amount in excess of what he believed he owed, and he because had never heard of the defendant and was afraid of being scammed.
Ultimately, the plaintiff’s actions, or lack thereof, after receiving the letter failed to reach the threshold of having standing to sue, ruled Judge Kenneth M. Karas of the District Court for the Southern District of New York. “Here, Plaintiff has wholly failed to demonstrate that he suffered any concrete harm,” Judge Karas wrote. “Plaintiff has not alleged, let alone demonstrated, that he suffered any monetary or reputational harm; instead, Plaintiff claims only that the Payment Letter caused Plaintiff to become ‘confused’ and ‘concerned.’ These claims are insufficient to establish concrete injury sufficient to confer Article III standing.”