In Friend v. CACH LLC, a district court in the Seventh Circuit dismissed a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) case for lack of Article III standing. In its holding, the court emphasized that to establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must establish concrete harm that he/she would not have incurred had the debt collector complied with the FDCPA. The plaintiff must allege more than mere contact between the plaintiff and the defendant when the defendant allegedly knew the plaintiff was represented by counsel.
In Friend, the plaintiff sued the defendant for violations of Section 1692g(b) (failing to cease communications and/or validate debt), Section 1692e(8) (reporting an inaccurate balance to the credit bureaus), Section 1692f(1) (attempting to collect amounts not authorized by the agreement creating the debt), and Section 1692c(a)(2) (communicating directly with the plaintiff, despite notice of counsel) of the FDCPA.
After the defendant moved for summary judgment and the plaintiff failed to respond, the court ordered supplemental briefing to address Article III standing. The court subsequently dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
As an initial matter, the court found that the plaintiff’s failure to address standing as to three of his four FDCPA claims (Sections 1692g(b), 1692f(1), and 1692e(8)) in supplemental briefing resulted in waiver. Accordingly, it held that the plaintiff lacked standing on those claims. It emphasized that the plaintiff’s mere recitations that the “[d]efendant[‘s] conduct damaged [the] [p]laintiff financially” was insufficient at the present state of the litigation, and there was otherwise no clear evidence of concrete harm sufficient to establish injury in fact for Article III standing for these claims.
As to the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant violated Section 1692c(a)(2) by “unlawfully communicat[ing] directly with him, despite notice that he was represented by counsel,” the court held that the plaintiff failed to produce evidence showing concrete harm. Citing Seventh Circuit precedent in Pennell v. Glob. Tr. Mgmt. LLC, it found the plaintiff’s mere allegations that the defendant’s “direct communication interfered with the attorney-client relationship and undermined [the] plaintiff’s attorney’s authority as his representative,” without more, was insufficient to establish concrete harm.