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Pierre v. Midland Credit Management

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held, contrary to decisions of other circuits, that a consumer who suffers emotional distress or other “psychological” injuries from violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lacks Article III standing to sue for damages. The consumer filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Seventh Circuit decision. Public Citizen filed a brief as amicus curiae supporting the petition. The brief explains that the FDCPA’s prohibitions specifically target the suffering and anguish caused by abusive debt collection practices. It also explains that Congress’s decision to outlaw such practices and provide remedies when violations have their natural effect of inflicting emotional distress on consumers falls well within its powers, because emotional distress is a traditional basis for seeking relief in American courts. The Seventh Circuit’s view that Article III bars Congress from identifying emotional distress as an injury and providing a damages action for consumers who suffer that injury calls into question a wide range of statutes that similarly allow consumers and others to sue for emotional distress, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Unfortunately, the Court denied the petition, leaving the Seventh Circuit’s decision in place.