Collection Class Action Reversed for No Concrete Harm in 8th Circuit
- Written by Steel Rose
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded the dismissal of a class action lawsuit concerning a medical collection letter that listed amounts due but did not distinguish between the principal and the interest that the debt collectors were attempting to charge. Plaintiff, who never paid any part of the interest or principal, filed a class action against the defendant debt collectors alleging violations of the FDCPA and the Nebraska Consumer Practices Act (NCPA). The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff lacked Article III standing. The district court denied the motion and the jury found for the defendants on all counts except for the NCPA claim, which was not tried before a jury. After trial, the district court determined it had provided improper jury instructions, and sua sponte, entered judgment for the plaintiff as a matter of law on both the NCPA and FDCPA claims. The district court specifically ruled that the NCPA does not allow collection of prejudgment interest by a debt collector without an actual judgment. The defendants appealed.
On appeal, the 8th Circuit focused on whether the plaintiff had standing. The appellate court held that the collection letter did not cause the plaintiff concrete harm, and concluded (quoting TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, citing Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins) that without a concrete injury in fact, she “is ‘not seeking to remedy any harm to herself but instead is merely seeking to ensure a defendant’s compliance with regulatory law (and, of course, to obtain some money via the statutory damages).’” Without suffering a tangible harm, the appellate court said it could only recognize injuries with “a ‘close relationship’ to harm ‘traditionally’ recognized as providing a basis for a lawsuit in American courts.” Decided on February 24. To read more click here.