In May 2016, the United States Supreme Court decided on a case that can affect whether consumers entangled in debt collection lawsuits have sufficient “standing” to initiate a lawsuit. Legal standing is defined as the right to initiate a lawsuit and it is a required element of a lawsuit, of which the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff throughout each phase of litigation. To establish standing, the plaintiff must be able to prove that he has suffered a “concrete and particularized injury” before filing a complaint against an entity.
SPOKEO V. ROBINS
In Spokeo v. Robins, the Supreme Court ruled that consumers must show proof of a “concrete and particularized injury” in order to sue the defending entity for damages. Up until this decision consumers affected by unfair debt collection practices could sue on the simple basis that companies had violated terms of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), or any other established laws. Today, simply showing that a company violated a statute is not enough to collect damages. Consumers now carry the burden of showing they have suffered “concrete injuries” as a direct result of these violations. But what exactly is a concrete injury?
DEFINE CONCRETE AND PARTICULARIZED INJURY
Justice Samuel Alito explained in Spokeo that to have a standing lawsuit, the plaintiff must show a concrete and particularized injury. The particularization of the injury refers to the injury being unique to the individual plaintiff; for example, a plaintiff cannot sue a company for a grievance that affects multiple people. As far as the “concrete” factor, this this means that the injury must be a “de facto,” “real” injury that must have actually occurred.The term “concrete” is not limited to tangible injuries; rather, concrete injuries can be intangible so long as they have an actual effect. Your TCPA attorney can help you determine whether or not you have a case and show you exactly what your concrete injuries are.
HOW IS TCPA LITIGATION AFFECTED?
Since Spokeo shifts the burden of proof onto the plaintiff, it is vital for the plaintiff to show that he suffered a concrete injury as the result of a violation. The TCPA establishes that autodialing systems are not to be used to contact consumers landlines or cellular phones. In addition, businesses cannot reach out to consumers with whom they do not have an “established business relationship” or whose express written consent they do not have.While it is now up to the plaintiff to prove his injuries, seemingly small effects of unwanted calls or debt collection harassment can fulfill this burden. Examples of concrete injuries include:
- The unwanted calls caused economic loss to the plaintiff (tangible harm) by exhausting the plaintiff’s limited number of cellular minutes or draining the cell phone battery, which must be charged (and in order to do this the plaintiff must pay for electricity);
- The unwanted calls wasted the plaintiff’s time and caused risk of injury by distracting him (intangible harm).
Courts around the country are finding concrete injuries that go beyond financial losses, which means that TCPA litigation is still alive and strong. There is a good chance that if a debt collection company has been harassing you with unwanted calls or texts, you could receive $500 to $1500 per call or text with the aid of an experienced TCPA attorney. Jibrael S. Hindi and his associates are a team of Fort Lauderdale attorneys who will fight for your privacy rights and put an end to the calls once and for all! With The Law Offices of Jibrael S. Hindi, you do not pay a dime until you get paid! Call (844) JIBRAEL or contact us online for a free consultation.