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U.S. Supreme Court Remands Article III Standing Case to 4th Circuit with Instructions to Reconsider Based on TransUnion v. Ramirez

01/13/2022 6:00 P.M.

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Article III standing remains a focus at the highest levels of appellate litigation, as demonstrated by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to vacate a judgment against Rocket Mortgage LLC (formerly Quicken Loans) and remand the case to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals based on the high court’s June 2021 decision in TransUnion v. Ramirez LLC.

 

As ACA International previously reported, TransUnion involved issues of Article III standing and the appropriateness of class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 in class action litigation. ACA filed an amicus brief in the case supporting TransUnion, a national credit reporting agency.

Article III of the U.S. Constitution requires that courts undertake only cases and controversies in which a plaintiff has a “personal stake.” Thus, to have standing to file suit in federal court, a plaintiff must show a concrete injury-in-fact caused by the defendant’s actions and redressed by a favorable court ruling.

Now, given the Supreme Court’s decision to remand the Rocket Mortgage appeal, the Article III standing issue will likely hold the attention of circuit courts—perhaps most notably in the 11th Circuit, which will be considering Article III standing in the course of the en banc appeal of Hunstein v. Preferred Collection & Management Services, in which ACA continues to support its member, Preferred Collection, via the Industry Advancement Fund.

Background on the Alig Remand
“In Alig, Rocket Mortgage argued that plaintiffs lacked standing because they were uninjured and instead benefited from obtaining the loans. The [4th] Circuit disagreed, finding that plaintiffs paid for independent home appraisals and instead received appraisals that were tainted by Rocket Mortgage and Title Source’s tactics. This financial harm, the [4th] Circuit opined, ‘is a classic and paradigmatic form of injury in fact,’” according to an article in The National Law Review.

Ultimately—as to Article III standing and the related question of class certification—the 4th Circuit’s March 2021 opinion affirmed the class certification, finding that among the class of 2,769 West Virginia homeowners who had refinanced their mortgages with Rocket Mortgage, “there is simply not a large number of uninjured persons . . . .”

Rocket Mortgage asked the Supreme Court to revisit the ruling, “which resulted in [the 4th] Circuit’s conditional certification of a class that was comprised of thousands of home mortgage refinance applicants and cleared the way for them to recover $3,500 each in statutory damages for their claims that the company unlawfully put estimates of their homes’ value on appraisal request forms,” according to The National Law Review.

On Jan. 10, the Supreme Court granted Rocket Mortgage’s petition for a writ of certiorari, vacated the judgment against it, and remanded the case to the 4th Circuit “for further consideration in light of TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez,” according to The National Law Review.

Standing Focus Expected in Hunstein Oral Arguments Set for February
Oral arguments will be conducted in the Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services Inc. case before 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Feb. 22. The 11th Circuit granted Preferred Collection’s en banc rehearing request Nov. 17, 2021, ACA previously reported, because a majority of active judges on the 11th Circuit bench had voted in favor of the en banc rehearing for the case.

In ordering the en banc rehearing, the 11th Circuit indicated that it “desires for counsel to focus their briefs on the following issue: Does Mr. Hunstein have Article III standing to bring this lawsuit?”

Read the 11th Circuit Clerk of Court’s memorandum regarding the en banc rehearing here.

The 11th Circuit’s Nov. 17 order granting the rehearing states that as a result of that order, “the panel’s opinion is vacated.”

The docket for the case, in turn, indicates that the Oct. 28 opinion and the April 21 opinions handed down by the Hunstein panels have both been vacated.

Plaintiff-Appellant Richard Hunstein, though counsel, filed a brief for the en banc hearing Dec. 23, 2021, and had support via an amicus brief filed jointly by Public Justice, the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center.

Preferred Collection’s brief is due Jan. 18, 2022.

ACA’s Take
The question of whether letter-vendor FDCPA lawsuits or lawsuits implicating other vendors but based on a Hunstein theory remains a hot issue, with Florida still the hotbed for these no-harm cases. Collectors facing litigation legal threats that raise these and similar claims must discuss with their legal counsel what strategy to pursue.

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