Appeals Court Rules Emotional Distress, Wasting Time Enough for Plaintiff to Have Standing in FDCPA Suit

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has overturned a lower court’s dismissal of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, ruling that the plaintiff’s claim of having suffered emotional distress and wasting time were sufficient for the plaintiff to have standing to sue, and have remanded the case back to the District Court for further proceedings.

Backstory: The plaintiff fell behind on payments to cover his condominium association fees and the association placed the account with a collection law firm. The law firm attempted to collect on the debt and the plaintiff believed the balance was excessive. Reviewing the details, the plaintiff — along with an attorney and an accountant — determined that the association was attempting to charge interest, late fees, and finance charges that were not allowed under state law. The plaintiff filed suit, but a District Court judge ruled the plaintiff lacked standing because he did not suffer a concrete injury.

Not So Fast: The issue, according to the Eleventh Circuit, is just how much time a plaintiff wastes. In this case, the plaintiff spent “several minutes” reviewing each of the letters he received, made an in-person visit to the association to determine the basis for how much he allegedly owed, and spent time on the telephone.

More Standing: The defendant also conferred standing for the plaintiff by filing a claim of lien for an inaccurate amount and refusing to release the lien unless the plaintiff paid more than he owed, the Appeals Court ruled.

The Last Word: The plaintiff “presented evidence that he suffered injuries ing an inaccurate claim of lien against his property — including time spent trying to determine the correct amount of his debt, resolve the lien, and avoid the threatened foreclosure ; and emotional distress manifesting in a loss of sleep — which are sufficiently tangible to confer Article III standing. The record also supports Toste’s assertion that the injuries are fairly traceable to the defendants ’ alleged misconduct, and that a favorable verdict is likely to redress his injuries the form of compensatory damages.”

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