A District Court judge in New Jersey has denied a plaintiff’s motion to remand a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case back to state court, ruling that the $7.38 spent by the plaintiff to mail a dispute to the defendant is enough of an injury for the plaintiff to have standing to sue in federal court.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Church v. J Ritter Law et al. can be accessed by clicking here.
Back in 2017, the plaintiff purchased two books from a college bookstore. In 2022, he received a letter — dated February 22, 2022 — from the defendant saying it was hired to collect a debt owed to the bookstore. The letter stated the plaintiff owed $466.77 — two debts with a principal amount of $171.78 and $299.99 in unexplained fees. The plaintiff — who received the letter on February 28 — was notified that he had 30 days to dispute the debt.
On March 21, the plaintiff spent $7.38 to send a written dispute by mail. The dispute was received by the defendant on March 23. The plaintiff received another letter from the defendant on March 23 alleging that he failed to respond to the previous letter. The plaintiff allegedly never received a response to his dispute, but did receive an email from the defendant a month later, informing the plaintiff that the defendant had closed out his file.
The plaintiff filed suit in New Jersey state court, alleging the email left him “confused, anxious, and upset as to his rights, what his liability might be for the [d]ebt, and, if liable, what amount he might be legally obligated to pay.” The plaintiff accused the defendant of harassing him, using false, deceptive, or misleading representations, falsely representing that the letters and email were from an attorney, and inconsistently communicating with him during the validation period.
The defendant removed the case to federal court, at which point the plaintiff sought to have the case remanded back to state court. But that $7.38 that he spent to mail the dispute was enough for Judge Michael A. Shipp to determine the plaintiff suffered a concrete injury, although he noted that the amount is a “relatively insignificant monetary loss.”