A District Court judge in New Jersey has dismissed a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act class action for lack of standing, ruling that the plaintiff did not provide any evidence to support her claim that the defendant failed to communicate to the credit bureaus that a debt was being disputed.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Chapman v. AA Action Collection Co. can be accessed by clicking here.
Back in 2018, the defendant sent the plaintiff a collection letter, seeking repayment of an unpaid medical debt. The letter indicated that if the debt was not disputed within 30 days, it may be reported to the credit reporting agencies. About a month later, the defendant sent another letter, informing her that this would be the final written notice before the debt was scheduled to be reported. Starting in November 2018, the defendant furnished information about the debt to TransUnion. Nearly two years later, the plaintiff faxed a letter to the defendant, disputing the debt and requesting verification and proof of the balance owed. The defendant denies receiving the dispute notification. On December 24 2020, the plaintiff reviewed her credit report, which did not indicate the debt was being disputed, but did state that the tradeline was “Date Updated: 12/18/2020.”
The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Sections 1692e(2)(A), 1692e(8), and 1692e(10) of the FDCPA because it failed to report that the debt was being disputed.
Both sides filed motions for summary judgment, but Judge William J. Martini of the District Court for the District of New Jersey first wanted to tackle whether the plaintiff had standing to sue.
The crux of the plaintiff’s argument is based on whether the defendant supplied information to the credit reporting agencies on December 18 or not. And there is no evidence to support what actually happened on December 18, Judge Martini determined.
“Plaintiff’s conclusion that AA reported the Debt to TransUnion on December 18, 2020 is based solely on the credit report’s reference to ‘Date Updated,’ ” Judge Martini wrote. “However, Plaintiff has proffered no evidence as to the source of that ‘update’ or the reason for any ‘update’ when no change in information is evident on the credit report. Even if the ‘update’ was from AA, it is conjecture as to when the ‘update’ was sent; there is nothing in the record that explains how TransUnion handles communications from debt collectors or agencies. In short, Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that sometime between October 22,2020 and December 18, 2020, AA disseminated to TransUnion any information regarding the Debt. Even assuming arguendo that AA did send the ‘update,’ there is no evidence of what information any such communication contained, namely that it failed to indicate that the Debt was disputed and hence defamatory.”