There seems to be more focus on defending suits for lack of quality lately, especially before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (e.g., see this, thisand this). While it may seem like these ongoing challenges are getting repetitive, we shouldn’t look away just yet; interesting decisions are still coming out like the recent notice in Milisavljevic v Midland Credit Managementno. 19-cv-08449 (ND IL 24 Jan. 2022).
In Milisavljevic, the consumer alleged that the debt collector violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDPCA) when he sent him a blank notice of a motion for default judgment, which, in his view, gave the impression that it was created and written by the state court. Believing that the draft motion originated in court and that judgment had already been entered against him, the consumer chose to do nothing and a default judgment was ultimately entered against him by the state court. The consumer retained the services of a lawyer only after the pronouncement of the judgment.
The court dismissed the consumer’s lawsuit against the debt collector, finding that various emotional distresses and the expenditure of “time, money and energy” were insufficient to create standing. The court explicitly pointed out that the consumer does not allege anywhere in his complaint that he paid money that he did not owe.
More interesting, In its analysis, the court noted that any harm suffered by the consumer did not result from the debt collector’s conduct, but from the consumer’s failure to respond to the petition in default. According to the court, “the plaintiff’s role in the causal chain leading to the default judgment cannot be ignored.” The court dismissed the consumer’s claim that his inaction was due to the debt collector sending the (allegedly) confusing draft motion for default judgment.
insideARM point of view:
At times, it may seem that the “least knowledgeable consumer” standard has become so loose that the term “personal liability” no longer exists in debt collection. This opinion is refreshing in that it suggests that consumers take some level of personal responsibility when it comes to conducting their business. Is this a shocking opinion, which changes everything? Probably not. However, a case like this is good to have on hand the next time your entity receives a lawsuit that reads like it was written by some cartoon character who laments, “D’oh – It’s everyone’s fault but mine!”