Judge Dismisses Hunstein Case for Lack of Standing

There are cases where a judge looks at the claims and determines that the plaintiff did not suffer any actual injury and therefore does not have standing to sue. And then there are lawsuits where the plaintiff doesn’t allege to have suffered an injury of any kind, which makes the judge’s job even easier. A District Court judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case because the plaintiff lacked standing to sue, without even getting to the defendant’s motion for a judgment on the pleadings.

Background: The plaintiff received a collection letter, attempting to collect on an unpaid debt. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Section 1692c(b) of the FDCPA because it used a third-party vendor to print and mail the letter. The plaintiff claimed that using the vendor disclosed her information to an unauthorized third party. The defendant filed a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, but before getting to that, Judge Jeffrey Schmehl of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided on his own to make sure the plaintiff had standing to sue. And that’s where the plaintiff’s problems began.

Not Injured: In her complaint, the plaintiff failed having suffered any injuries whatsoever, noted Judge Schmehl — not a reputational injury, not an emotional injury, not even a privacy-related one, he wrote. “She simply seeks damages because Defendant provided her information to the letter vendor,” Judge Schmehl wrote. “In essence, she is claiming that Defendant’s conduct injured her in and of itself and conferred Article III standing upon her, entitling her to damages.”

That’s Not How it Works Judge Schmehl noted. Relying on a bare procedural violation of the FDCPA, even though it is a strict liability statute, is not enough for the plaintiff to have standing to pursue her lawsuit.

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