United States District Court, D. Connecticut
LUCILLE A. REMINGTON, Plaintiff,
FINANCIAL RECOVERY SERVICES, INC., et al., Defendants.
RULING GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.
brings this action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., on
grounds that she received a debt collection letter that made
reference to possible tax consequences if she were to settle
an outstanding debt. Defendants have moved to dismiss
plaintiff's FDCPA complaint for lack of standing and
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. I
conclude that plaintiff has standing, but that the words in
this debt collection letter are not actionable, because they
are not false, deceptive, or misleading.
Financial Recovery Services, Inc. (FRS), a debt collector,
mailed plaintiff a letter in an attempt to collect a personal
credit card debt in the amount of $822.39. Doc. #1. In the
letter, FRS offered plaintiff three settlement options to pay
off the debt, and further noted: “This settlement may
have tax consequences. Please consult your tax
advisor.” Id. at ¶¶ 9, 10.
has filed this lawsuit under the FDCPA, alleging that the
letter's reference to potential tax consequences is
false, deceptive, and misleading-that it “suggests that
the consumer could be in trouble with a tax authority if she
did not pay in full rather than settle, ” id.
at ¶ 20, that it “creates a false sense of
urgency, ” id. at ¶ 21, and that it
“is meant to make the consumer nervous, worried, or
upset, ” id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff also
alleges that the reference to potential tax consequences from
a settlement is a “ploy to get the consumer to pay the
account instead of a [sic] paying for tax
advice.” Id. at ¶ 19.
enacted the FDCPA in light of “abundant evidence of the
use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection
practices by many debt collectors, ” which
“contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to
marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of
individual privacy.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692(a). The
statute's stated purpose is “to eliminate abusive
debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that
those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt
collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and
to promote consistent State action to protect consumers
against debt collection abuses.” 15 U.S.C. §
other provisions of the statute, the FDCPA broadly provides
that “[a] debt collector may not use any false,
deceptive, or misleading representation or means in
connection with the collection of any debt.” 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692e. The statute lists many examples of such
prohibited conduct. Id. The FDCPA further provides
for a civil cause of action for any violations and for the
award of attorney's fees. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k.
have moved to dismiss plaintiff's suit for lack of
standing and failure to state a claim. See Doc. #9.
I will address each in turn.
III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of the
federal courts to “Cases” and
“Controversies.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2,
cl. 1. The reason for the case-or-controversy limitation is
to restrain the federal courts from enmeshing themselves in
deciding abstract and advisory questions of law. Accordingly,
any federal court plaintiff must have case-or-controversy
“standing” to assert a claim-specifically,
“a plaintiff must show (1) an ‘injury in fact,
' (2) a sufficient ‘causal connection between the
injury and the conduct complained of, ' and (3) a
‘likel[ihood]' that the injury ‘will be
redressed by a favorable decision.'” Susan B.
Anthony List v. Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 2334, 2341
(2014) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504
U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)); see also E.M. v. New York City
Dep't of Educ., 758 F.3d 442, 449-50 (2d Cir.
injury in fact must be both “concrete and
particularized, ” as well as “actual or imminent,
not conjectural or hypothetical.” Spokeo, Inc. v.
Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1548 (2016). An injury is
concrete if it “actually exists, ” though it need
not be a “tangible” injury (e.g.,
incurring damages or suffering a physical injury), because
Congress may create “intangible” injuries through
statute. See Id. at 1549. An injury is
particularized if a plaintiff shows that a defendant's
“actions (or inactions) injured her in a way distinct
from the body politic.” Strubel v. Comenity
Bank, 842 F.3d 181, 188 (2d Cir. 2016).
first to particularity, the complaint sufficiently
demonstrates that defendants' debt collection letter-if
violative of the FDCPA-“injured [plaintiff] in a way
distinct from the body politic.” Strubel, 842
F.3d at 188. Although defendants contend that the complaint
only states that the letter creates a “false
sense of urgency”-not that “the letter caused
her to suffer harm, ” Doc. #16 at 2, a fair
import of the complaint is that plaintiff read the letter and
felt harmed by it. The letter thus affected plaintiff
“in a personal and individual way” and any injury