The Southern District of Florida has added to the growing collection of cases under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) based on a lack of standing.
In Preisler v. Eastpoint Recovery Grp., No. 20-CV-62268-RAR (S.D. Fla. May 25, 2021), the defendant, United Holding Group, LLC, purchased a debt owed by the plaintiff, Amir Preisler, and hired defendant Eastpoint Recovery Group, Inc. (Eastpoint) to help collect it. On November 7, 2019, Eastpoint sent the plaintiff a letter identifying the account and stating:
The account listed above has been assigned to this agency for collection. We are a professional collection agency attempting to collect a debt. Any information we obtain will be used as a basis to enforce collection of this debt. (Emphasis supplied by the court).
The plaintiff filed a claim under the FDCPA, alleging that the letter was misleading and that the inclusion of the word “enforce” made the letter threatening and confusing to him.
In granting Eastpoint’s motion to dismiss, the court noted that “confusion – on its own – it not an injury in fact.” Rather, the plaintiff’s “subjective interpretation of the word ‘enforce’ did not result in a concrete and particularized injury necessary to confer Article III standing.”
Further, the court held that even if the plaintiff had suffered a concrete injury, he lacked standing because the alleged harm — fear and emotional distress based on the use of the word “enforce” in the collection letter —was not traceable to the claimed violations of the FDCPA. Rather, the court found that the plaintiff’s distress was caused by his default on his debt and concern over the consequences.
With courts increasing focus on whether plaintiffs in FDCPA cases have suffered concrete injuries, this case is a reminder that the existence of some actual harm is not the sole requirement for standing. Rather, a plaintiff must also show a causal connection between the harm alleged and the claims asserted.