Judge Remands FDCPA Case Back to State Court, But Closes Door on Damages

A District Court judge in Illinois has granted a plaintiff’s motion to remand a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case back to state court, but in doing so made some comments that I found to at least make the ruling more enjoyable to read, if not also being possibly incredibly helpful for the defendants going forward.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Keller v. LVNV Funding and Resurgent Capital Services can be accessed by clicking here.

Background: The plaintiff filed suit in state court, claiming the defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The defendants removed the case to federal court, which started a “tug of war” over the jurisdiction in the case, noted Judge Steven C. Seeger of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. While not necessarily unusual to readers of this site, Judge Seeger noted that “direction of the jurisdictional tugging is upside down” because it’s the defendant trying to keep the case in federal court.

The Ruling: While the plaintiff did claim a loss of time and money in his complaint and the demand for relief included statutory and actual damages, the words are “magic” and don’t establish that the plaintiff suffered the concrete injury needed to keep the case in federal court, Judge Seeger ruled. “All too often, plaintiffs feel annoyed, stressed, confused, or something along those lines,” Judge Seeger wrote. “Every plaintiff in every case is upset about something. That’s how they wind up in the courthouse in the first place.”

Ultimately, there is nothing in the plaintiff’s complaint indicating he suffered a concrete injury, Judge Seeger ruled. Allegations of a tangible harm would need to accompany any claim of lost time or money.

But, in ending his ruling, Judge Seeger found a “silver lining” for the defendants in remanding the case back to state court. I will let him have the last word.

“Defendants are going where they don’t want to be, but there is a silver lining – Plaintiff has disclaimed the recovery of any damages that would satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement in federal court. That representation should cap any recovery in state court. A plaintiff can’t disclaim it here, and claim it there. When it comes to an injury, a plaintiff cannot let the air out of the tires to get out of federal court, and then inflate the demand for damages in state court.”

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