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Seventh Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on FDCPA Claim Reasoning No Concrete Harm

  • Written by Steel Rose

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit engaged in a very different analysis – focusing solely on whether Plaintiff had standing to sue. The Court drew insight from the Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, which requires a Plaintiff to have suffered an injury in fact that is traceable to the alleged conduct of the Defendant to establish standing. See Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1547 (2016). To this end, courts have long held that an injury must be concrete. In the context of the FDCPA, courts have repeatedly recognized that a debtor suffers a concrete injury when a debt collector fails to inform a debtor of his statutory rights, “only if it impairs the debtor’s ability to use that information for a substantive purpose that the statute envisioned.”

Using this analysis, the Seventh Circuit determined that Plaintiff could only incur a concrete injury if Defendant’s failure to provide notice of her statutory rights caused her to suffer a harm identified by the FDCPA – i.e. paying money she did not owe. Because Plaintiff admitted that she had not paid Defendant or the employer the bonus payments, and that she had merely suffered “stress” and “anxiety,” the Court held that Plaintiff had not suffered a concrete injury in fact traceable to Defendant’s alleged violations of the FDCPA. Therefore, the Seventh Circuit reversed the lower court’s summary judgment decision reasoning Plaintiff’s lack of standing, and remanded the action with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. To read more click here.