Judge Partially Denies MTD, Rules Plaintiff Has Standing in FDCPA Case Over Phone Calls

If I am reading this case right — and I will remind you that I am not a lawyer, I just play one on webinars — a District Court judge in Illinois — the home of no standing rulings — has determined a plaintiff has standing in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawsuit against a collector accused of allegedly making a harassing number of phone calls by way of alleging intrusion upon seclusion. The judge did dismiss the other two counts against the defendant.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Atkins v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff began receiving calls from the defendant in relation to a debt of less than $30 that was owed to a local hospital. The plaintiff engaged in a conversation with a representative of the defendant, who indicated she was calling from “HRRG.” The plaintiff refused to confirm her identity and the representative refused to answer the plaintiff’s question about what HRRG stood for. The plaintiff ended the call by saying, “[Y]ou can probably take me out of your database because I’m quite sure you have the wrong person.” The defendant left at least five voicemails for the plaintiff, asking for a return call. The plaintiff subsequently picked up a call from an unknown number, didn’t hear anything and then the call was disconnected. The plaintiff called the number back, and when asked for her personal information, gave it to the representative this time, learned about the debt.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Sections 1692e, 1692d(6), and 1692d(5) of the FDCPA. She dropped the 1692e and 1692d(6) claims, conceding she did not have standing.

Judge Manish S. Shah of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, agreed with the plaintiff that she has standing to sue because she suffered an intrusion of seclusion because she continued to be called after telling the defendant to remove her from their database. The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to prove demonstrate that any intrusion was intentional, but Judge Shah disagreed.

The defendant also attempted to argue that if the plaintiff has standing, it’s only because she chose not to pay her debts, but Judge Shah called that argument a “non-starter.” The defendant also used the fact that the plaintiff had a pending lawsuit against another collector to intimate that it might not have been the only one making calls to her. But the plaintiff testified about her conversations with the defendant and the defendant’s records indicated it did place calls to the plaintiff, Judge Shah noted.

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