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What Is A Concrete Injury In Terms Of Debt Collection Lawsuits?

After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, consumers have been required to show proof of a “concrete and particularized injury” before bringing a claim under various state and federal laws. People who have been harmed by unfair debt collections practices or unfair credit reporting practices can no longer simply show that a company violated a statute in order to win damages in a case. But what exactly is a concrete and particularized injury, and how do you know if you have one?

In the Spokeo decision, Justice Samuel Alito explained that in order to have standing to file a lawsuit, a plaintiff must show a concrete and particularized injury. For an injury to be concrete, it must be real rather than abstract. For an injury to be particularized, it must have affected the plaintiff in a personal and individual way.

A concrete injury can be either tangible or intangible, but it must have an actual effect. For example, suppose a debt collection company sues the wrong woman for a debt. The woman would have tangible harm because she would have to spend time and money hiring an attorney and fighting the case. Alternatively, suppose the credit bureaus report an error on a man’s credit report that lowers his credit score by 300 points. As a result, he is turned down for a new credit card and an auto loan. Even though the man might not have lost any money as a result of the error, he has still suffered concrete and particularized harm under the statute.

In Spokeo, the defendant ran a people search website on the internet. If you have ever Googled a person’s name, you have likely run across this type of site before. The webpage under the plaintiff’s name contained inaccurate information regarding the plaintiff’s age, income, and marital status. The plaintiff alleged that the inaccurate information violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA is meant to prevent the dissemination of inaccurate information which could affect a person’s credit. The plaintiff argued that when enacting the law, Congress intended to allow consumers to sue companies who violate the statute even without a concrete injury. However, the Supreme Court disagreed, and found that Article III of the U.S. Constitution required plaintiffs to plead a concrete and particularized injury rather than a bare violation of a statute. Justice Alito compared the violation to disseminating the wrong zip code—without more, the Constitution will not allow a lawsuit.

While the case may seem to shift the burden of proof onto consumers, courts around the country have been finding concrete and particularized injuries outside of just financial losses. Consumers who are able to show that some right has been violated, whether it was by harassing phone calls, incorrectly reported credit information, or other statutory violations, will still be able to have their day in court.

If have been plagued by debt collector harassment, inaccurate collection activities, or are unsure if you have a case, contact the South Florida debt defense attorneys at Loan Lawyers today. We offer free consultations to all of our clients, and can help you fight back against unscrupulous debt collectors in court. To schedule your consultation, contact our office today by calling (888) FIGHT-13 (344-4813).

  • ABC News
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • CBS 4
  • CNN
  • Daily Business Review
  • Florida Trend's - Florida Legal Elite 2014
  • Florida Trend's - Florida Legal Elite 2014
  • National Association of Consumer Advocates
  • National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
  • NBC News
  • National Consumer Law Center
  • The New York Times
  • Avvo
  • Avvo
  • Avvo
  • Avvo
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