A District Court judge in Missouri has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawsuit, ruling the plaintiff did not have standing to sue because the defendant sent a letter to the plaintiff after being notified that the plaintiff was being represented by an attorney.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Ebaugh v. Medicredit can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff’s legal aid attorneys informed the defendant in writing that she was being represented by counsel and that she was refusing to pay the debt, while also instructing the defendant to cease contacting her and cease all further collection activities. The defendant sent a letter to the plaintiff offering to settle the debt for 50% of the balance that was owed.
The plaintiff filed suit, claiming the defendant violated Section 1692c of the FDCPA. The complaint alleged that the defendant’s actions “alarmed, confused and emotionally distressed” the plaintiff, while also invading her privacy, causing loss of sleep, worry, and costing her unnamed out-of-pocket expenses.
By not detailing what the out-of-pocket expenses were, Judge Matthew T. Schelp of the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri had no idea what they were or how they came about, and therefore could not confirm they were sufficient for the plaintiff to have standing to sue.
Judge Schelp noted that the receipt of phone calls or text messages has been enough for judges to rule plaintiffs have standing to sue for the invasion of their privacy, but determined a letter delivered to a mailbox is not in the same ballpark as a phone call or a text message. “… while delivery of a letter could invade privacy, mere receipt of an unsolicited letter, without any other factual allegations, is insufficient to establish injury as the type of intrusive privacy invasion the tort of intrusion upon seclusion seeks to prevent,” Judge Schelp wrote.