A U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri recently dismissed a lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), finding that two letters sent to the plaintiffs’ attorney did not constitute harassment or abuse under 15 U.S.C. § 1692d.

In Ross v. Siegert, the parties were involved in state court litigation when the defendant’s attorney sent the plaintiffs’ attorney a letter demanding payment. The plaintiffs’ attorney disputed the debt and requested verification. The defendant’s attorney responded with a second letter, stating the plaintiffs owed $1,777.50 for attorneys’ fees and costs in the underlying state action. The plaintiffs then filed a complaint against both the defendant and her law firm, alleging that the letters violated § 1692d, by causing loss of sleep, nausea, and other purported physical and emotional manifestations of distress.

The court found that the plaintiffs had standing, citing multiple cases holding that emotional and mental distress are concrete injuries. However, the court found the plaintiffs’ claim failed on the merits. Section 1692d prohibits a debt collector from engaging “in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” The court found the letters “as mundane and unremarkable as letters between attorneys representing adversarial parties can be.”

The plaintiffs’ sole argument was that the demand for payment was inherently harassing because they contended that they did not owe a debt. However, they failed to cite any supporting case law or provide meaningful analysis. In a footnote, the court stated the plaintiffs had made no effort to oppose the motion or prosecute the case, questioning if there were other motivations for filing the suit.

The court determined that none of the example violations in § 1692d resembled the defendant’s attorney sending two letters to the plaintiffs’ attorney. While §§ 1692e(2) and 1692f(1) address allegations of pursuing a non-existent debt, the plaintiffs chose not to seek redress under either of those sections The court further noted that “[h]arassing or abusive and false or misleading are not perfectly interchangeable.” The court also commented that the communications at issue were done in the least harassing way possible: the defendants only communicated with the plaintiffs’ attorney and only through letters, which is one of the least intrusive methods of communication.

The court concluded the plaintiffs failed to explain how it was harassing, abusive, or oppressive to them when their attorney received two inoffensive letters. Due to the plaintiffs’ failure to raise any real arguments or defend their claims, the court dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice.