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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

District Court grants summary judgment for defendant in FDCPA case

Courts FDCPA Debt Collection

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On September 1, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted a defendant debt collector’s motion for summary judgment resolving FDCPA allegations. The defendant allegedly sent the plaintiff a debt collection letter, which the plaintiff disputed. Then, the plaintiff allegedly received another letter that included language regarding how to dispute the debt. Again, the plaintiff disputed the debt, requested validation of the debt, and filed a second dispute, which allegedly caused the plaintiff “stress and confusion” and “led her to unnecessarily expend time and money, as she went to the library to type and print the letter and spent money to mail it.” After the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, the court certified a class in the case. Since both sides had engaged in discovery, the court treated the defendants’ motion as one for summary judgment and concluded that the plaintiff did not demonstrate a concrete harm. The judge granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, noting that the plaintiff’s “injury—spending time and money in an attempt to clear up her confusion concerning whether she had validly disputed the debt—is analogous to injuries arising from consultations with lawyers or filing suit, which the Seventh Circuit has held do not amount to concrete harm.”

As previously covered by Infobytes, the Seventh Circuit earlier this year held that a consumer’s alleged “stress and confusion” did not constitute a concrete and particularized injury under the FDCPA after 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. In that case, the Seventh 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.’”

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