As we await word from the Supreme Court about whether it will hear arguments in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding case, the highest court in the land yesterday announced it had denied a petition from a plaintiff who had won $350,000 in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, only to have it overturned for lack of standing by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
What made Pierre v. Midland Credit Management interesting to the accounts receivable management industry was a dissenting opinion written by four judges on the Seventh Circuit who voiced their thoughts on how the Court has “strayed far” from what the Supreme Court intended when it set the threshold of what it takes for an individual to have standing to sue in federal court.
After the Seventh Circuit issued its ruling, the plaintiff petitioned for an en banc rehearing, which was denied, and then sought the help of the Supreme Court, which, too, decided not to hear arguments in the case. The Supreme Court has tackled the issue of standing on a number of different fronts in recent years — TransUnion v. Ramirez and Spokeo v. Robins come to mind immediately — and apparently determined that Pierre did not raise anything that hasn’t already been argued.
In Pierre, the plaintiff sued the defendant after receiving a collection letter. The defendant had previously sued the plaintiff for the unpaid debt before voluntarily dismissing the suit. The letter, sent five years later, included a statute of limitations disclosure. The plaintiff sued, claiming the letter was deceptive, unfair, and unconscionable. A class was certified and a jury awarded $350,000 in damages. The defendant appealed, and the Appeals Court determined that because the plaintiff never acted on the letter, all that was suffered was the risk of a concrete injury, and that was not enough for the plaintiff to have standing to sue.