A District Court judge in Puerto Rico has denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act class action case on the grounds the plaintiff lacked standing to sue, ruling that the plaintiff “lives to fight another day” based on the claims she made in her amended complaint.
The Background: The plaintiff incurred a debt that was placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant sent a letter to the plaintiff, which was allegedly the first communication, but it did not contain a disclosure about disputing or seeking verification of the debt, nor did it include any of the itemization information. The suit also accuses the defendant of not identifying itself as a debt collector in that letter or a subsequent letter that was sent to the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff claimed she had to use $600 of her health insurance pharmacy allotment and had to take sick days off work as a result of the communications. She also allegedly required medical care.
- The plaintiff also incurred late fees and accrued interest on other obligations that she failed to pay because she separated funds to pay this debt while operating under the incorrect belief that she had to pay without disputing the debt’s validity.
- The plaintiff also alleged to have suffered intangible injuries, such as telling her employer her wages may have to be garnished, which damaged her reputation.
The Ruling: The defendant, in its motion to dismiss, argued that the plaintiff does not have standing to sue because she did not suffer specific damages, because she never made a payment toward the debt or contacted the defendant. The defendant also disputed the plausibility of the plaintiff having to receive medical treatment because of the collection efforts.
- Ultimately, Judge Hector L. Ramos-Vega determined the plaintiff had standing to sue, but just barely. The judge noted it was a close case and that the plaintiff should not take comfort with the ruling because once discovery has been conducted, the alleged concrete injuries may not be that concrete.
- The plaintiff’s list of injuries, at this stage of the proceedings, is enough to meet the bar for her to have standing to pursue her suit, Judge Ramos-Vega ruled. Paying for medical care and for medication are injuries in fact, the judge determined.