In an unpublished opinion, the Eleventh Circuit applied the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016) and held that a debtor who allegedly did not receive certain disclosures required by the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) suffered an injury-in-fact to her statutorily created right to receive such information, and therefore had standing to pursue an FDCPA claim against the entity attempting to collect the debt.

In Church v. Accretive Health, Inc., No. 15-15708, Mahala Church filed a putative class action against Accretive Health, Inc. for violations of the FDCPA.  Church alleged that Accretive Health sent her a letter advising that she owed a debt to Providence Hospital, but failed to include certain disclosures required by the FDCPA. Church did not allege that she had suffered any actual damages from Accretive Health’s failure to include those disclosures; rather, she simply alleged that upon receiving the letter, she “was very angry” and “cried a lot.”  Accretive Health argued that it was not a “debt collector” under the FDCPA because Church’s debt was not in default at the time it obtained the debt from Providence Hospital. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of Accretive Health because the FDCPA expressly excludes from the definition of “debt collector” any third party collecting a debt that is not in default at the time it was obtained by the third party.

On appeal, Accretive Health relied on Spokeo to argue that Church’s alleged injury was not sufficiently concrete to support Article III standing because she incurred no actual damages from Accretive Health’s violation of the FDCPA.  The Eleventh Circuit explained that in Spokeo, the Supreme Court held that the violation of a statutory right can be sufficient to constitute an injury-in-fact without the need for additional harm.  By enacting the FDCPA, Congress provided Church with a substantive right to receive certain disclosures, and because she alleged that Accretive Health violated that substantive right, she also sufficiently alleged that she had suffered a concrete injury-in-fact.

Nonetheless, the Court still affirmed, holding that because the debt at issue was not in default at the time Accretive Health obtained the debt, the district court had correctly concluded that the FDCPA did not apply to Accretive Health’s letter to Church.