Judge Partially Dismisses Claims in FDCPA Case, Rules Physical Injuries Enough to Confer Standing

In a lot of instances, unpacking and summarizing a court ruling in less than 500 words is pretty easy. But, like the situation we have for this particular case, the volume of interesting twists and turns are going to make being brief difficult, so bear with me. A District Court judge in Minnesota has partially granted and partially denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, determining that physical injuries like stomach pain and headaches are enough for the plaintiff to have standing, that waiting 11 days for an attorney to respond to a request is not a reasonable amount of time, and that if a consumer notifies a prior debt collector that he or she is invoking a cease communication request, the consumer does not have to notify subsequent debt collectors for liability to attach.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Drechen v. Rodenburg can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff defaulted on a debt that was purchased by LVNV Funding. The plaintiff’s attorney sent LVNV a letter, indicating that they were representing the plaintiff and informing LVNV that the plaintiff was refusing to pay the debt and wished to have no further contact about it.

A year later, the plaintiff’s attorney received a letter from Resurgent Capital Services verifying the debt. The next month, the plaintiff’s attorney confirmed with Resurgent that they were representing the plaintiff, that she refused to repay the debt, and wished no further contact.

On January 7 2022, the plaintiff’s attorney received a fax from Rodenburg, seeking confirmation that they were representing the plaintiff and asking for confirmation by January 12, saying that if they didn’t hear from the attorney, they would assume there is no formal relationship and attempt to contact the plaintiff. The plaintiff claims the fax was not received until January 10 and the attorney and the plaintiff discussed the letter on January 13. On January 18, the defendant sent the plaintiff a collection letter.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging she suffered headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain as a result of the letter. She alleged the defendant’s conduct violated Sections 1692c(a)(2), 1692c(c), 1692e, 1692e(5), 1692f, and 1692f(1) of the FDCPA.

Ultimately, Judge John R. Tunheim of the District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled the plaintiff had standing to sue because of the physical injuries she allegedly suffered. Whether the plaintiff can prove the letters caused the alleged harm later in the case “is an issue to be resolved at a later stage,” Judge Tunheim ruled.

Judge Tunheim also ruled that the defendant did not wait long enough after sending the fax to the plaintiff’s attorney before it sent the letter to the plaintiff, largely because it appeared that the defendant had some idea that the plaintiff was represented, or why would it send the fax in the first place?

Regarding the cease communications directive, Judge Tunheim again pointed to the apparent knowledge that the defendant knew some of the history of the case, because it sent the fax to the plaintiff’s attorney. “The Court concludes that if a consumer notified a debt collector that the consumer invoked § 1692c(c)’s cease communications provisions and a subsequent debt collector has actual knowledge of the cease communications directive, the consumer need not have directly notified the subsequent debt collector as well for liability to attach,” Judge Tunheim wrote.

The judge did grant the defendant’s motion to dismiss on the 1692e, 1692e(5), and 1692f(1) claims.

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