A District Court judge in Pennsylvania — at the behest of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit — has ruled a plaintiff has standing to pursue a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case against a collector, determining that feeling “overwhelmed” and making the decision to file for bankruptcy protection, and has allowed the plaintiff to file a second amended complaint.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Lezark v. I.C. System can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff originally filed suit accusing the defendant of violating the FDCPA because in a collection letter, it mentioned that the client had authorized the defendant to “pursue additional remedies to recover the balance due, including referring the account to an attorney.” The suit accused the defendant of making a threat that it did not intend to act on as a means of inducing the plaintiff to pay the debt.
The District Court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the case, which the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the issue of whether the plaintiff had standing or not was raised for the first, time and the Third Circuit sent the case back to the District Court to make that determination.
The defendant attempted to argue that the District Court lacked jurisdiction because the allegations in the original complaint did not establish standing, but Judge Christy Criswell Wiegand of the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled that caselaw gave her the authority to grant leave to amend complaints to establish standing.
On the topic of the plaintiff’s arguments why he has standing, Judge Wiegand said the plaintiff feeling “overwhelmed” was equivalent to the sort of “emotional or psychological harm” that is actionable in common law.
“Notably, Mr. Lezark’s are the sorts of injuries that Congress sought to remedy with the FDCPA,” Judge Wiegand wrote. “Congress enacted the statute ‘in response to ‘abundant evidence of the use of abusive [or] deceptive . . . debt collection practices by many debt collectors,’ finding that such practices ‘contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.’ And abusive collection practices historically included threatening, harassing, or misleading letters and other communications-some of which were severe enough to support tort liability.”