The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recently underscored the fact that a plaintiff does not automatically gain Article III standing under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) simply because they are confused by a letter.

In Osorio v. Transworld Systems, Inc., the plaintiff received a debt collection letter listing the creditor, but not specifying whether it was the original or current creditor. On this basis, the plaintiff filed a putative class action arguing that the letter violated the FDCPA because it created confusion as to whom the debt was owed. The district court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim. On appeal, the Third Circuit determined the plaintiff actually never had standing to bring her claim in the first place.

The appellate court reviewed Article III standing requirements, including that the injury in fact must be concrete and particularized, noting an intangible harm may qualify but must bear a close relationship to a traditionally recognized injury. The court then analyzed prior Third Circuit cases holding that “confusion, without more” is not enough and “a FDCPA claimant ‘must suffer some cognizable harm that flows from [her] confusion.'” Because the plaintiff in Osorio did not plead any harm besides the confusion itself, the court could not reach the merits.

The Third Circuit then vacated the district court judgment and remanded for the case to be dismissed.