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Coleman v. Charlottesville Bureau of Credits, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

April 17, 2017




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on its own initiative. Plaintiff Sumiko Coleman ("Plaintiff) brings this action against Charlottesville Bureau of Credits, Inc. ("Defendant"), alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (See generally Compl., ECF No. 1.)

         As an affirmative defense, Defendant asserted that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action because she has not suffered a particularized and concrete injury. (Answer 3, ECF No. 4.) Because this calls into question whether the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this matter, the Court ordered the parties to submit memoranda addressing whether Plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded an injury in fact to confer standing. (ECF No. 6.)

         All parties have filed memoranda supporting their respective positions. (ECF Nos. 7, 8, 10.) The Court will dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before it, and oral argument would not aid in the decisional process. E.D. Va. Local Civ. R. 7(J).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction and therefore must dismiss this action.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff begins her one-count Complaint by averring that "[o]n information and belief, on a date better known to Defendant, Defendant began collection activities on an alleged consumer debt from the Plaintiff." (Compl. ¶ 7.) The Complaint notes that this alleged debt was incurred as a financial obligation that was primarily for personal, family, or household purposes and that Commonwealth Lab Consultants was the original creditor. (Id. ¶ 8.) Though the timing is unclear from the face of the Complaint, at some point Defendant reported the debt on Plaintiffs credit report. (Id. ¶ 10.)

         Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant on October 28, 2016, disputing the debt. (Id. ¶ 11.) Several months later, on January 10, 2017, Plaintiff examined her credit report and found that Defendant had re-reported the debt, but had not listed it as being "disputed by consumer." (Id. ¶ 12.) As a result, Plaintiff summarily alleges that she "has been damaged" and that she "is entitled to damages in accordance with the FDCPA." (Id. ¶¶ 13, 16.)

         However, at no point in her Complaint does Plaintiff plead with any degree of specificity how she has allegedly been damaged.[1]


         A bedrock constitutional principle of our Federal Government is the division of powers between its branches. As such, it is well settled that judicial power is limited to the extent that federal courts may exercise jurisdiction only over "cases" and "controversies." U.S. Const, art. Ill. §2; Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559 (1992). Thus, subject-matter jurisdiction requires a justiciable case or controversy within the meaning of Article III of the United States Constitution. See Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750-51 (1984), abrogated on other grounds by Lexmark Int 7, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1377 (2014). Standing constitutes one component of justiciability. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560. Whether a plaintiff has standing presents a "threshold question in every federal case, determining the power of the court to entertain the suit." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). "The objection that a federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised by a party, or by a court on its own initiative, at any stage in the litigation." Arbaugh v. Y&HCorp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006) (internal citation omitted).

         The Supreme Court has established that the "irreducible constitutional minimum" of standing includes three elements: (1) an injury-in-fact; (2) a causal connection between the injury and the alleged misconduct; and (3) a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61 (citations and quotation marks omitted). Because Plaintiff seeks to invoke this Court's jurisdiction, she bears the burden of establishing all three elements. Id. at 561. "Where, as here, a case is at the pleading stage, the plaintiff must 'clearly . .. allege facts demonstrating' each element." Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016), as revised (May 24, 2016) (quoting Warth, 422 U.S. at 518).

         In Spokeo, the Supreme Court reiterated the basic tenets of the standing doctrine. Id. at 1547. It noted that to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement, a plaintiff must show "'an invasion of a legally protected interest' that is 'concrete and particularized' and 'actual and imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.'" Id. at 1548 (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560).

         To satisfy the particularization requirement, the plaintiff "must allege a distinct and palpable injury to himself." Worth, 422 U.S. at 501 (citations omitted). The injury must "affect the plaintiff in a personal and individual way." Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560 n.l. Claims asserting "'generalized grievance[s]' shared in substantially equal measure by all or a large class of citizens ... normally do[] not warrant exercise of jurisdiction." Warth, 422 U.S. at 499 (citations omitted).

         Standing's concreteness requirement demands that an injury be real, not abstract. Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1548. However, it is possible for an intangible harm to be concrete.[2]Id. at 1549. When determining whether such intangible harms are sufficiently concrete to satisfy Article Ill's ...

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