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Brown v. Glasser And Glasser, P.L.C.

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

November 9, 2017




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on its own initiative. Plaintiff Alysande Brown ("Plaintiff) filed a Complaint (ECF No. 1) on October 18, 2017, asserting a cause of action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA").

         After reviewing the Complaint, the Court had concerns that a facial reading of the Complaint may not support subject matter jurisdiction and ordered supplemental briefing from Plaintiff on that issue. (ECF No. 3.) On November 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Law On Article III Standing ("Memorandum on Standing") that purports to address the concerns identified by the Court. (ECF No. 4)

         For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction and must dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Glasser and Glasser PLC ("Defendant") initiated collection activities against Plaintiff on a "debt" within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(5). (Compl. ¶¶ 8-9.) On October 18, 2017, Defendant sent a collection letter to Plaintiff, which stated in relevant part: "This settlement may have tax consequence. If you are uncertain about the possible tax consequences, please consult your tax adviser." (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.)

         Plaintiff contends that Defendant's debt collection efforts violated various provisions of the FDCPA. (Id. ¶ 21.) As a result of these efforts, Plaintiff summarily alleges that Plaintiff "has been damaged" and "is entitled to damages in accordance with the FDCPA." (Id. ¶ 22.) However, the Complaint fails to specify how Plaintiff has allegedly been damaged.[1]


         The Constitution divides power amongst the three branches of our Federal Government. 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. III, §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'l, 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&H Corp., 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). As the party invoking this Court's jurisdiction, Plaintiff 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." Warth, 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.1. 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 III's requirements, Congress' "judgment is ... instructive and important." Id.

         In creating statutory rights of action, "Congress may 'elevat[e] to the status of legally cognizable injuries concrete, de facto injuries that were previously inadequate in law.'" Id. (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S at 578) (alteration in original). However, "Congress' role in identifying and elevating intangible harms does not mean that 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. The Supreme Court has made ...

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