While there may be people in the industry celebrating that the Hunstein case was dismissed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday, a pair of recently issued rulings from the Northern District of Illinois illustrate that the fight over the use of letter vendors to print and mail collection letters is not over — it’s just being relocated to state court instead.
Two judges in the Northern District each ruled in separate cases last week that separate plaintiffs accusing different collection agencies of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by using a vendor to print and mail collection letters do not have standing to sue in federal court and remanded both cases back to state court from whence they came.
In Blaise, the plaintiff accused the defendant of violating the FDCPA by not having her consent to disclose her personal information to the vendor that printed and mailed the letter and that her personal email address was visible through the clear window on the envelope. In Reed, the plaintiff also accused the defendant of violating the FDCPA by not having her consent to send her information to a vendor that printed and mailed the letter and by using a bar code and series of numbers other than the defendant’s address in the envelope window.
Both cases were initially filed in state court and then moved to federal court by the defendants. Both cases are now heading back to state court because the judges ruled that neither plaintiff suffered the concrete injury necessary to have standing to sue in federal court.
Acknowledging that it was “plausible” that the information sent by the defendant to the letter vendor “was simply populated by computer into the pre-made letter template,” Judge Edmond E. Chang of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois noted that nothing Reed alleged indicated that the vendor made her information public or that a single person read her information. That was enough for him to kick the case back to state court.
Along with the use of a letter vendor not being sufficient to conclude that her information was disclosed publicly, Judge Franklin U. Valderrama of the Northern District agreed with Blaise that the disclosure of her email address was not enough to meet the threshold of a concrete injury. “…the Court is not aware of any-cases applying state law in which a plaintiff has sustained an invasion of privacy claim based upon the disclosure of a personal email address only; to the contrary, courts have found that disclosure of information like an email address is insufficient to sustain such a claim,” Judge Valderrama wrote.