A District Court judge in New Jersey has denied a defendant’s motion for summary judgment, determined that a plaintiff had standing to sue because of a barcode that was visible through the window of an envelope, and certified a class in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawsuit.
A copy of the ruling in Morales v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group is available by clicking here.
This is a case involving letters that were sent back in 2015 and has already been to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and back. The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant, which through the glassine window portion of the envelope, a barcode was visible. When scanned by a smartphone, the barcode revealed an account number and the first 10 characters of the plaintiff’s street address. A District Court judge originally dismissed the case, which was overturned by the Third Circuit. The defendant sought — and was denied an en banc hearing — and case was remanded back to the District Court level.
In seeking summary judgment, the defendant sought to convince the judge that the plaintiff had not suffered a concrete injury and did not have standing to sue. But the barcode, which was used especially in cases where mail was returned as undeliverable, could have been scanned by anyone and everyone processing returned envelopes, noted Judge Evelyn Padin of the District Court for the District of New Jersey. If that isn’t an invasion of privacy, she doesn’t know what is. The number in the barcode, along with another piece of information, like a date of birth or email address, could have given anyone access to the plaintiff’s account, the judge noted.
After denying the defendant’s motion, Judge Padin then turned to certifying the class, including 6,187 individuals living in New Jersey who received similar letters between December 2014 and December 2015.