On April 17, the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed sua sponte a suit against a collection agency alleging that the debt collector failed to properly update the plaintiff consumer’s credit report, thereby violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, the Court concluded that the plaintiff lacked the standing necessary to bring the suit against the collection agency because she had not sufficiently pled any concrete harm that allegedly occurred in connection with the FDCPA violation.
In Coleman v. Charlottesville Bureau of Credits, Inc., plaintiff Sumiko Coleman alleged that collection agency Charlottesville Bureau of Credits (“CBC”) failed to properly update her credit report after she sent a letter to CBC on October 28, 2016, disputing the debt. Coleman alleged that several months later, on January 10, 2017, she examined her credit report and found that CBC had re-reported the debt but had not listed it as disputed. Coleman claimed that, as a result, she had been damaged and that she was entitled to damages under the FDCPA.
In making its decision to dismiss this matter for lack of standing, the Court goes through a detailed analysis of the Article III elements to determine if Coleman’s complaint rose to the level of an actionable FDCPA claim.
In its holding, the Court determined that Coleman’s mere allegation of a bare statutory violation without anything more was insufficient to confer standing. Here, Coleman alleged that the collection agency’s failure to properly report her account as disputed violated Sec. 1692(e)(8) of the FDCPA caused her credit score to drop, resulting in her injury. She failed to allege concrete injury, however, and the Court was unwilling to find that all per se violations of the FDCPA constitute a concrete injury.
The Court went on to state that Coleman could have standing to bring an action under the FDCPA. However, in order to do so, she must plead a concrete harm under Spokeo in order to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement of Article III.
Our prior discussions on Spokeo decisions can be found here, here, and most recently here. What distinguishes Coleman from those decisions is that the Court brought this dismissal action on its own initiative. The Court further observed that Coleman’s counsel had filed three nearly identical complaints – each lacking specificity as to concrete damages.
We will continue to monitor and report on the outcome of these matters.