Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

May v. Consumer Adjustment Co., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 19, 2017

DONNA MAY, Plaintiff,
v.
CONSUMER ADJUSTMENT COMPANY, INC., et al., Defendants,

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This 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 Jefferson County.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff 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.

         On 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.

         Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff 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.

         After 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.

         Standard

         “[F]ederal 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).

         The “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 confer standing.

         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 https://www.supremecourt.gov/qp/13-01339qp.pdf. The 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.

         The 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).

         The 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.