In the Hunstein v. Preferred Collection decision issued on Thursday, September 8, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Alabama, Georgia, Florida), after issuing opinions and vacating the same twice before, now holds that: (1) the mere violation of Section 1692c(b) of the FDCPA, without showing any additional harm, does not give rise to a concrete injury in fact sufficient to confer standing under Article III of the Constitution; and (2) a debt collector’s transmittal of a consumer’s debt information to a third-party letter vendor does not constitute a public communication that results in an injury to a consumer.  The Court is now remanding the case back to the District Court for dismissal.

In summarizing the holding that a collection company’s communications to its mail vendor does not result in a harmful communication regarding a consumer’s debt, the Eleventh Circuit states,

“One benefit of the comparison we are asked to make with common-law torts is that it allows us to better understand whether a plaintiff has suffered a real harm. That is certainly true here. At bottom, Hunstein is simply no worse off because Preferred Collection delegated the task of populating data into a form letter to a mail vendor; the public is not aware of his debt (at least, not because of Preferred Collection’s disclosure to its vendor). Nor is it clear, or even likely, that even a single person at the mail vendor knew about the debt or had any reason—good, bad, or otherwise—to disclose it to the public if they did. Given the obvious differences between these facts and the traditional tort of public disclosure, we find that no concrete harm was suffered here.

“No concrete harm, no standing.” TransUnion, 141 S. Ct. at 2214. Because Hunstein did not have standing, the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider his claim.”

A copy of the decision can be obtained from the following link.

Hunstein v. Preferred Collection

If you wish to discuss this latest holding you may contact James McPherson [email protected] or Jonathan Sawyer [email protected] with any questions you may have.