A U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri recently granted a defendant’s summary judgment motion in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) case, holding that the plaintiff lacked standing because she did not show an injury in fact traceable to the defendant’s alleged consumer reporting.

In Williams v. LVNV Funding, LLC, the plaintiff owed a debt to a bank and defaulted on the debt by failing to make timely payments. In 2019, the bank charged off the debt and the defendant became the owner of the account. In 2020, the plaintiff submitted disputes regarding the account to the consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). The defendant, once notified of the dispute, reported the debt with an “XB” compliance condition code for each reporting cycle, indicating that the reporting was disputed by the consumer.

In 2021, the defendant received a letter from an attorney purporting to represent the plaintiff which said that the plaintiff no longer disputed her account and asked that the “XB” code be removed. However, the letter did not copy the plaintiff or include a power of attorney so the defendant continued to report the account as disputed.

Under 15 U.S.C. § 1692e of the FDCPA, debt collectors, like the defendant, are not permitted to use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Conduct actionable under this section includes, but is not limited to, false representation of the character, amount, or legal status of any debt and “[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.”

The plaintiff later initiated suit alleging she was injured in three ways by the defendant’s reporting. Specifically, the plaintiff said the failure to remove the XB code had a negative effect on her credit, caused her to suffer emotional harm, and constituted a concrete harm because her credit was misstated to the CRAs.

The court dismissed each of these assertions holding that the plaintiff lacked the ability to demonstrate an injury in fact sufficient to confer standing to bring a claim. First, the court said the plaintiff did not offer evidence sufficient to show that a lender denied her credit in part based upon the dispute notation at issue. Second, the court did not accept the plaintiff’s unsupported assertion that the dispute notation caused her credit score to decrease. Third, the court rebutted the plaintiff’s injury claim by noting that the plaintiff admitted that adding a dispute notation does not raise, lower, or have any direct effect on a consumer’s credit score.

The court also found that the plaintiff’s alleged emotional harm also did not rise to the level of an injury in fact because the plaintiff’s harm was “the garden variety of stress” individuals regularly experience, the plaintiff failed to produce evidence of a medical diagnosis for any conditions, and she failed to prove that any alleged conditions were caused by the defendant’s conduct surrounding the dispute notation. The court said that the plaintiff’s alleged stress from the litigation and her generally poor credit did not establish a cognizable injury.

Lastly, the court ruled that the alleged misstatement of the plaintiff’s credit to the CRAs did not constitute an injury in fact. The court found the publication of allegedly defamatory information is reputational harm and the plaintiff did not show how the defendant’s actions harmed her reputation. The court further found the plaintiff did not show how the dispute notation subjected her to “hatred, contempt, or ridicule” and that even if the defendant had violated the FDCPA, the plaintiff’s failure to show how the misrepresentation caused harm to her reputation or name meant no injury in fact occurred.

Because the plaintiff was unable to demonstrate an injury in fact, the court ruled the plaintiff had no standing, the defendant’s summary judgment motion was granted, and the case was dismissed.