A District Court judge in Pennsylvania has denied a defendant’s motion for reconsideration on the grounds that the plaintiffs in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lacked standing, affirming a summary judgment ruling that had previously been awarded in favor of the plaintiffs, ruling that the plaintiff’s decision not to act after receiving a collection letter because she was unsure of how much to pay is sufficient grounds to have standing to sue in federal court.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Huber v. Simon’s Agency can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff incurred four separate debts to a medical facility. At each visit, the plaintiff provided her cell phone number. Each of the four debts were placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant sent the plaintiff a letter after it received each debt from the creditor. Each debt was given its own account number, and the four accounts were aggregated under a master number. The final collection letter listed the amount due as a result of the fourth visit, the amount due from the three previous visits (under the heading: various other accounts total balance) and the sum of the two amounts. The plaintiff sued, arguing, in part, that the fourth letter was not clear about how much was owed.
The defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, using the Supreme Court’s ruling in TransUnion v. Ramirez to demonstrate why the plaintiff in this case did not suffer a tangible harm needed to confer standing to sue in federal court. Many courts have issued rulings, post-TransUnion, that have held that feeling confused or anxious about a debt after receiving a collection letter is not enough to have standing; those individuals needed to have suffered some form of concrete financial harm for a federal court to have jurisdiction.
In this case, the plaintiff claims that she did not pay her bill because she did not know how much to pay, thus making her “unable to undertake reasonable action with the benefit of accurate information,” according to Judge Anita Brody of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “As a result, Huber suffered financial consequences,” Judge Brody wrote. “Such a response is an inevitable consequence of receiving a misleading and deceptive debt collection letter.”