In a great new case that was recently issued in a District Court the 6th Circuit in Ohio, Judge Carr wrote a great opinion reaffirming the fact that in order for Plaintiffs to obtain emotional damages under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), they need not prove damages pursuant to stringent state laws. See Davis v Creditors Interchange, 2008 Lexis 94906. In Davis, the court was faced with the question of whether a federal court has to apply the state law standards when deciding the issue of emotional damages in the context of an FDCPA or and FCRA case. The court held that no, it does not need to draw on the state standards for deciding emotional damages. While this issue has still not been ruled on by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, this decision follows a number of District Court opinions in the 6th circuit holding that federal courts do not and should use state standards for determining emotional damages.
In holding that federal courts should not look to state laws when reviewing emotional damages under the FDCPA and FCRA, the court based its decision in Davis on several solid concepts:
First, Congress intended for the FDCPA to create a more effective weapon against abusive debt collection practices than provided by existing state law remedies. Second, Congress designed the FDCPA to create a uniform law governing debt collection. Third, the structure and purpose of the FDCPA closely track the Fair Credit Reporting Act and courts interpreting the FCRA have concluded that “actual damages for emotional distress can be proved independently of state law requirements” for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The District Court then noted a number of other decisions out of other circuits that came to the same conclusion. However, like everything else in life, there are limits as to how relaxed this standard is. While state laws regarding intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress require a Plaintiff to prove and quantify damages with a degree to certainty, while federal standards are not this stringent, there are standards. in fact, the FDCPA at 15 USC 1692k(a)(1) requires a Plaintiff to prove ” definable actual damages” in order to recover anything beyond statutory damages. While this standard was not defined in the Davis case, it does prove that there is some standard by which a Plaintiff must show emotional damages, if not by the laws set forth by the state.
Conclusion – Plaintiff’s attorneys should always allege emotional damages under both state law and under the FDCPA and FCRA when pursuing claims. While these damages under state law may ultimately denied to the Plaintiff, they may be recoverable in that same case under the federal statutes.