In Tolliver v. Nat’l Credit Sys., Inc., No. 20-cv-728-jdp (W.D. Wis. Sep. 22, 2021), the Western District of Wisconsin found that the plaintiff lacked standing to assert his claims for violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), in which he alleged that a debt collector had failed to inform the consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) that the plaintiff disputed the debts at issue.
Plaintiff Scott Tolliver had a pair of debts with defendant National Credit related to past due rent. He asserts that he sent letters to National Credit, disputing theses debts in August 2019. Because National Credit failed to report the debts as disputed to the CRAs, he filed suit, alleging violations of FDCPA Section 1692e(8), which prohibits debt collectors from “[c]ommunicating or threatening to communicate to any person credit information which is known or which should be known to be false, including the failure to communicate that a disputed debt is disputed.”
National Credit denied ever having received the letter at issue and challenged whether Tolliver had standing to assert his claims. The court held that even if the defendant had received the letters, Tolliver’s claims failed to show that he had suffered an injury in fact and granted summary judgment to National Credit.
In arguing that he had standing to bring his claims, Tolliver asserted that he suffered four concrete injuries: (1) the risk of financial harm caused by inaccurate information on his credit report; (2) the reputational harm caused by National Credit communicating erroneous information to credit reporting agencies; (3) emotional distress; and (4) time and resources expended because of National Credit’s FDCPA violation.
The court rejected the first argument, finding that Tolliver had not produced any evidence to show that National Credit’s failure to notify the CRAs of his dispute adversely affected his credit or otherwise created a risk of financial harm. Further, it found that his claim of reputational harm in this context was identical to his claim for the risk of financial harm. Regarding the claim for emotional distress, the court held “being ‘confused and aggravated’ because of misinformation that violates the FDCPA isn’t itself an injury in fact, in the absence of other, concrete harm.” Finally, the court rejected Tolliver’s claim that the time he spent and the expenses he incurred in bringing his lawsuit qualify as an injury, stating, “[i]f time spent on a lawsuit were enough to provide standing for the same lawsuit, then a plaintiff would have standing in every case.”
This case provides another example of the requirements of standing in the context of claims under the FDCPA. In addition to establishing a technical violation of the statute, plaintiffs must show that they have suffered some actual and concrete injury for their claims to survive.