United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, [Doc. No. 58]. Plaintiff opposes the Motion.
For the reasons set forth below, the Motions is granted in
part. This matter will be remanded to the Circuit Court of
Donna May filed this putative class action in the Circuit
Court of Jefferson County, alleging that Defendants Consumer
Adjustment Company, Inc. (“CACi”) and Roger Weiss
violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692, et seq. (“FDCPA”) by sending
Plaintiff a collection letter for her overdue utility bill
that stated the full amount of the debt without informing her
that the amount owed included interest, and that the interest
would continue to accrue until the debt was paid. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants, who are “debt collectors,
” as defined by the FDCPA, attempted to collect a debt
that arose from utilities provided by Ameren Missouri.
February 5, 2015 the Court granted Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, and dismissed Plaintiff's Complaint, with leave
to amend. Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint on February
19, 2015, and Defendants again request dismissal. On July 24,
2015, the Court granted in part and denied in part
Defendant's Motion. Defendants now move for dismissal for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff opposes the
motion and also argues that if the Court concludes it lacks
subject matter jurisdiction, Defendants should have sought
remand, not dismissal.
allegedly incurred a debt to Ameren Missouri. Ameren hired
Defendant CACi, to collect the debt. Defendant Weiss is
CACi's principal officer. Defendants sent Plaintiff a
collection letter dated June 19, 2013 stating that she owed
$495.02. Defendants did not provide Plaintiff any indication
that the amount Plaintiff purportedly owed, and for which
Defendants were demanding payment, would change for any
reason. In reality, Defendants, and not Ameren as the
original creditor, were actively assessing and attempting to
collect interest on the debt beyond what was factored into
the amount due that Defendants listed on their collection
letter. Plaintiff alleges that at the time Defendants sent
the collection letter, neither Defendants nor Ameren was in
possession of the original contract or agreement that
permitted the assessment of interest on Plaintiff's
Ameren account, much less at the rate Defendants were
assessing and attempting to collect.
receiving Defendants' collection letter, Plaintiff
compared the amount Defendants were attempting to collect
with the last bill she received from Ameren a few days prior.
The Ameren bill stated that Plaintiff was only obligated to
pay $493.92. On July 9, 2013, Plaintiff called CACi to
inquire why the two amounts were different. During the call,
a representative of Defendants admitted to charging interest,
and attempted to collect an amount in excess of the balance
disclosed within the June 19, 2013 collection
letter-approximately $497. Because interest was constantly
accruing, the amount Defendants were attempting to collect in
the June 19, 2013 collection, $495.02, was less than the
amount Defendants were attempting to collect from Plaintiff
on the day she received the letter.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Dakota,
Minnesota & E.R.R. Corp. v. Schieffer, 715 F.3d 712,
712 (8th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted). The party invoking
federal jurisdiction has the burden of establishing that it
exists. Id.; see also Jones v. United
States, 727 F.3d 844, 846 (8th Cir. 2013); Bowe v.
Nw. Airlines, Inc., 974 F.2d 101, 103 (8th Cir. 1992).
“Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all
in any cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and
when it ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the
court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the
cause.” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better
Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998). The Court must
accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and
must construe the complaint in favor of the complaining
party. Clayton v. White Hall Sch. Dist., 778 F.2d
457, 458 (8th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted).
“irreducible constitutional minimum” of standing
has three elements. Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136
S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992)). A plaintiff must
have “(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is
fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant,
and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable
judicial decision.” Id. (citing
Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61; Friends of the Earth,
Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Serv. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167,
180-81 (2000)). Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to
demonstrate an injury in fact sufficient for the Court to
establish injury in fact, a plaintiff must show he or she
suffered “an invasion of a legally protected
interest” that is “concrete and
particularized” and “actual or imminent, not
conjectural or hypothetical.” Spokeo, 136
S.Ct. at 1548 (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560
(internal quotation marks omitted)). Spokeo
presented the question “[w]hether Congress may confer
Article III standing upon a plaintiff who suffers no concrete
harm, and who therefore could not otherwise invoke the
jurisdiction of a federal court, by authorizing a private
right of action based on a bare violation of a federal
statute.” Questions Presented, Spokeo, Inc. v.
Robins, No. 13-1339 (U.S.), available at
plaintiff in Spokeo alleged the defendant violated
the FCRA and sought to represent a class of similarly
situated individuals. Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1544.
Supreme Court reiterated “Congress cannot erase Article
III's standing requirements by statutorily granting the
right to sue to a plaintiff who would not otherwise have
standing.” Id. at 1547-48 (quoting Raines
v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 820 n.3 (1997)). The injury must
be “concrete and particularized, ” and
“[a] concrete injury must be de facto, that
is, it must actually exist.” Id. at 1548
(internal quotations omitted) (emphasis in original).
Concrete “is not, however, necessarily synonymous with
tangible, ” and “intangible injuries can
nevertheless be concrete.” Id. at 1549
(internal quotations omitted). To determine whether an
intangible harm is sufficiently concrete to confer standing,
“both history and judgment of Congress play important
roles.” Id. If the “alleged intangible
harm has a close relationship to a harm that has
traditionally been regarded as providing a basis for a
lawsuit in English or American courts, ” the intangible
harm may satisfy the injury in fact requirement. Id.
While Congress may elevate de facto injuries to
legally cognizable status, this does not mean “a
plaintiff automatically satisfies the injury-in-fact
requirement whenever a statute grants a person a statutory
right and purports to authorize that person to sue to
vindicate that right.” Id. A plaintiff cannot
“allege a bare procedural violation, divorced from any
concrete harm, and satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement of
Article III.” Id. The Eighth Circuit recently
addressed Spokeo's impact in Braitberg v.
Charter Commc'ns, Inc., 836 F.3d 925, 930 (8th Cir.
2016). The Court recognized Spokeo rejected the
“absolute view” that “the actual-injury
requirement may be satisfied solely by the invasion
of a legal right that Congress created.”
Id. (quoting Hammer v. Sam's E., Inc.,
754 F.3d 492, 498-99 (8th Cir. 2014) (emphasis in original)).
The Court found the plaintiff failed to establish an injury
in fact because the plaintiff alleged only a statutory
violation of the “duty to destroy personally
identifiable information by retaining certain information
longer than the company should have kept it.”
Id. There was no allegation the company disclosed
the information to a third party, allowed a third party to
access the information, or the company used the information
in any way. Id. Moreover, there was no showing of
“material risk of harm from the retention.”
Id. The complaint alleged only “a bare
procedural violation, divorced from any concrete harm,
” and was therefore properly dismissed by the district
court. Id. at 930-31 (quoting Spokeo, 136
S.Ct. at 1549).
purpose of the FDCPA 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 ...