Appeals Court Vacates Class Certification in FDCPA Case

In a case that was defended by the team at Malone Frost Martin, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has overturned certification of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act class action, ruling that the plaintiff lacked standing to file her lawsuit because she did not suffer a concrete injury after receiving a collection letter that failed to disclose the statute of limitations on the underlying debt had expired.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Perez v. MVBA can be accessed by clicking here.

The defendant did not raise the issue of standing on appeal, but the panel of Fifth Circuit judges said it had an “independent obligation to assure that standing exists” prior to ruling on the merits of the case. In filing her original lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed three injuries that she suffered — the letter created a “significant risk” of harm in that she might have paid time-barred debts, the letter confused and misled her about the enforceability of the debt, and it required her to consult with an attorney.

The defendant raised the issue of standing before the District Court judge, who issued his ruling the day after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in TransUnion v. Ramirez.

On appeal, the plaintiff’s attorney advanced five theories that the plaintiff suffered a concrete injury, but the Appeals Court rejected each argument. The ruling in TransUnion foreclosed on the plaintiff’s theories that a violation of statutory rights under the FDCPA and possibly accidentally paying a time-barred debt are concrete injuries, the Appeals Court ruled. Similarly, consulting with an attorney — and not making a payment — is not a concrete injury. “… we are not aware of any tort that makes a person liable for wasting another’s time,” the Appeals Court wrote.

Finally, because the plaintiff sued the defendant for violating Section 1692e of the FDCPA, not 1692d, she could not “bootstrap the harms it recognizes as actionable to demonstrate standing to sue based on a different provision,” the Appeals Court wrote.

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