A District Court judge in Florida has remanded a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case back to state court where it was originally filed, ruling the plaintiff lacks standing to sue, while also denying the plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees and costs because the defendant removed the case to federal court.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Bryton v. Preferred Collection & Management Services can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant and filed suit, alleging the defendant did not have the proper license to collect in Florida, that it falsely represented the character and amount of the debt, and that the defendant communicated information about the debt with a third party when it sent details to a company that printed and mailed the letter.
The defendant removed the case to federal court, where it was stayed pending the outcome of Hunstein v. Preferred Management & Collection Services. Once that case was resolved, the plaintiff moved to remand the case back to state court and asked the court to award attorney’s fees because the removal was in bad faith.
Ultimately, the defendant did not meet the burden of proof to show the plaintiff suffered a concrete injury, ruled Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell of the District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The Eleventh Circuit ruled in Hunstein that communicating information about the existence of a debt to a third-party mail vendor did not constitute a concrete injury, and since the claim in this case mirrored the one in Hunstein, there is no reason to keep the case in federal court, Judge Honeywell ruled. On the other counts, the plaintiff did not allege to have suffered any harm other than to claim the the least sophisticated consumer would have been misled by the defendants statutory violations.
On the motion for attorney’s fees, Judge Honeywell ruled the defendant had an “objectively reasonable basis” at the time it removed the case to federal court because at the time the case was removed, the state of the Hunstein case was that sharing information with a third party was an injury-in-fact.