FDCPA Case Dismissed Over Letter with Multiple Addresses
- Written by Mike Sharp
As a preliminary matter, although not briefed by either party, the Court notes that Plaintiff does not appear to have Article III standing to bring her claims alleging that she was harmed by the confusion caused when Defendant allegedly provided two addresses to send written disputes or verifications.3 Madlinger v. Enhanced Recovery Co., No. 21-154, 2022 WL 2442430, at *5-7 (D.N.J. July 5, 2022). Specifically, this Court has found that unless a plaintiff alleges she “relied on the multiple addresses in the letter in making a decision to verify or dispute the debt,” a plaintiff fails to plead a concrete harm sufficient to confer Article III standing. Madlinger v. Fin. Recovery Servs., Inc., No. 21-1288, 2023 WL 3240795, at *3 (D.N.J. Jan. 9, 2023). This is because generalized confusion is not sufficient to confer Article III standing. Enhanced Recovery Co., 2022 WL 2442430, at *5 (recognizing that while the Third Circuit has yet to reach this particular issue, other courts of appeals have considered whether confusion alone is a concrete injury for Article III purposes and “squarely rejected” the proposition, finding instead that such general allegations of confusion are “insufficient to confer standing”).
To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate “(1) an injury-in-fact, (2) a sufficient causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, and (3) a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.” Finkelman v. Nat’l Football League, 810 F.3d 187, 193 (3d Cir. 2016). The “injury in fact” inquiry is often determinative of standing. Ellison v. Am. Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, 11 F.4th 200, 205 (3d Cir. 2021) (citations omitted). “A plaintiff seeking to establish injury in fact ‘must show that he or she suffered “an invasion of a legally protected interest” that is “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.”’” Id. (quoting Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 194 U.S. 330, 339 (2016)).
Here, Plaintiff alleges only that “[t]he least sophisticated consumer may be dissuaded from disputing [a debt] since he or she may not know to which of the two addresses the debt dispute should be sent.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 42.) Not only does this hypothetical seem to ask this Court to issue an advisory opinion, but the Amended Complaint also contains no allegation that Plaintiff tried to exercise her option to verify or dispute her debt but could not do so because she did not know what address to send her letter to. (See generally Am. Compl; see also In re Lazy Days’ RV Ctr. Inc., 724 F.3d 418, 421 (3d Cir. 2013) (“Federal courts have no jurisdiction to render advisory opinions. Put another way, they ‘may not decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them or give opinions advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts.’” (citation omitted)).)
As such, even if this Court takes as true Plaintiff’s allegation that the Collection Letter and validation notice “violated the FDCPA since it frustrated Plaintiff’s ability to intelligently choose [her] response,” Plaintiff has not alleged a concretized harm sufficient to confer Article III standing because it merely alleges she was confused by Defendant’s inclusion of multiple addresses in the Collection Letter. While the Court finds that Plaintiff lacks Article III standing for her § 1692g and § 1692e claims, the Court notes that this District is split as to whether confusion under 15 U.S.C. § 1692 can constitute a concretized injury capable of conferring Article III Standing in this context. Compare Enhanced Recovery Co., 2022 WL 2442430, at *5, with Rhee, 2020 WL 4188161, at *4 (finding that a plaintiff does not need to plead she is “actually confused by [a collection letter] to establish standing” but rather that “the receipt of a misleading debt collection letter may constitute a concrete injury because it is the precise injury that Congress hoped to stop with the FDCPA”). As such, out of an abundance of caution, the Court will also assess the merits of Plaintiff’s claims under § 1692g and § 1692e. For more on the case refer to UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY RENEE PISTONE, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Civil Action No. 21-1285 (ZNQ) (JBD) MEMORANDUM OPINION Plaintiffs, v. CLIENT SERVICES, INC., Defendant. QURAISHI, District Judge.