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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

District Court dismisses FDCPA class action lawsuit for lack of standing on alleged concrete injuries suffered

Courts FDCPA Class Action Consumer Finance Litigation Standing Debt Collection

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On January 31, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed an FDCPA class action lawsuit for lack of standing. According to the order, plaintiff alleged numerous violations of the FDCPA related to two debt collection letters sent to the plaintiff and his girlfriend. In September 2023, a debt collector (defendant) reportedly sent two letters to the plaintiff which allegedly did not contain the requisite information mandated by the FDCPA for communication with consumers, including validation and itemization details. One of the letters purportedly demanded payment by September 29, falling within the 30-day validation period. Additionally, plaintiff asserted that one of the letters was addressed to his girlfriend who bore no responsibility for the debt. Plaintiff claimed two concrete injuries: (i) the letters allegedly strained his relationship with his girlfriend, causing emotional distress; and (ii) due to the omission of critical information in the letters, plaintiff felt confused and uncertain about how to effectively respond.  

In considering the plaintiff’s claims, the court discussed the elements required to state a claim for publicity given to private life and examines a specific case where such a claim was rejected by the court. It highlights that for such a claim to succeed, the matter publicized must be highly offensive to a reasonable person and not of legitimate public concern. Additionally, mere communication of private information to a single person typically does not constitute publicity, unless it has the potential to become public knowledge. Although Congress explicitly prohibits debt collectors from sharing consumer financial information with third parties, the court noted that it “does not automatically transform every arguable invasion of privacy into an actionable, concrete injury.” Therefore, the plaintiff's injury, as pleaded, was deemed insufficiently concrete for standing purposes. Regarding the second alleged injury, the court argued that confusion alone does not suffice as a concrete injury for standing purposes, and courts have determined that mere confusion or frustration does not qualify as an injury. Additionally, the court compared the case to other cases where plaintiffs had alleged confusion yet had also demonstrated further injuries.