District Court Finds Plaintiff Lacks Standing to Bring FDCPA Suit After He Testified That He had Not Read the Collection Letter at Issue

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In Truckenbrodt v. CBE Grp., Inc., No. 2:19-cv-2870 (ERK) (SMG), (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2020) the court dismissed a suit brought under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”) after the plaintiff conceded that he had not actually read the collections letter at issue.

The plaintiff, John Truckenbrodt (“Truckenbrodt”), owes a debt that was referred to defendant CBE Group (“CBE”) for collections. CBE sent Truckenbrodt a letter concerning the debt that included two return addresses, one to which Truckenbrodt should send correspondence if he wished to dispute the debt and one to which he could submit payment.

Truckenbrodt filed suit asserting that the use of these two different addresses created confusion as to where he should send a communication disputing the debt and, therefore, rendered the collection letter misleading under § 1692e of the FDCPA. But during his deposition, Truckenbrodt conceded that he had not seen the letter before the suit was filed. Indeed, he did not know that he had filed a complaint and thought that he was being deposed because he had been sued. Based on this testimony, the court held the letter could not have affected Truckenbrodt “in a personal and individual way.” Because Truckenbrodt did not suffer any concrete and particularized harm, the court dismissed his claim for lacked standing.

Additionally, the court held that, even if Truckenbrodt had seen the letter, his claim would have failed on the merits. Viewing the collection letter from the perspective of the least sophisticated consumer, it determined that the clear instructions concerning where disputes should be sent prevented the letter from being misleading.

This case serves as a reminder that Article III standing can be raised at any time. Moving to dismiss for lack of standing is appropriate whenever it becomes clear that a plaintiff has suffered no actual harm.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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