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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

7th Circuit: “Stress and confusion” not an injury under the FDCPA

Courts Appellate Seventh Circuit Debt Collection FDCPA Standing

Courts

On March 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a consumer’s alleged “stress and confusion” did not constitute a concrete and particularized injury under the FDCPA. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant debt collector violated the FDCPA when it directly communicated with her by sending a dunning letter related to unpaid debt even though she had previously notified the original lender that she was represented by counsel and requested that all debt communications cease. The district court granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion on the grounds that the debt collector could not have violated the FDCPA “without having actual knowledge of [the consumer’s] cease-communication request.”

On appeal, the 7th Circuit concluded that the complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff lacked standing. The 7th Circuit held that the consumer’s allegations—that the dunning letter caused her “stress and confusion” and “made her think that ‘her demand had been futile’”—did not amount to a concrete and particularized “injury in fact” necessary to establish Article III standing under the FDCPA. The court further noted that “the state of confusion is not itself an injury”—rather, for the alleged confusion to be concrete, “a plaintiff must have acted ‘to her detriment, on that confusion.’” Here, the consumer pointed only to a statutory violation and “failed to show that receiving [the debt collector’s] dunning letter led her to change her course of action or put her in harm’s way.” Additionally, the appellate court found the consumer’s argument that the dunning letter also “invaded her privacy,” raised for the first time on appeal, unpersuasive because she did not allege that injury in the complaint.

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