Where can I sue debt collectors under the FDCPA — state or federal court?
You are tired of dealing with abusive debt collectors so you are going to sue them under the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act). But the question becomes: Where do you sue? State or federal court?
You can sue in either court under the FDCPA
You have the option — sue in state or in federal court.
Let’s look at why you have this option then we’ll go through the advantages of each court as you decide where to file your case.
To get into federal court, you have to show the court that it has “jurisdiction” over the subject of the lawsuit. When you sue under a federal statute, such as the FDCPA, you satisfy this requirement.
Alabama state court is always open to either state or federal court lawsuits. It is federal court that is a court of “limited” jurisdiction but since you are suing under the FDCPA you meet that requirement.
Advantages of suing in Federal Court
The judges tend to be more familiar with federal laws such as the FDCPA.
We find federal judges have less tolerance for the games debt collectors like to play in “discovery”. This is the part of the case where both sides can ask each other questions, request documents, etc. Many state court judges are reluctant to really hammer someone who is not playing by the rules.
Federal judges tend to not worry about it — if someone breaks their rules, there are serious consequences.
Advantages of suing in Alabama State Court
There are some arguments that if you don’t have “concrete” damages, the federal court may not be able to hear your case. Even an FDCPA lawsuit.
We won’t go into the details but this is called a “Spokeo” motion named after a recent US Supreme Court decision.
I rarely see it work in an FDCPA case but occasionally a federal judge will say, “I don’t see concrete damages so I’m kicking you out of court.”
You don’t face that in state court.
And if the defendant debt collector “removes” your case from state to federal court, then even if a judge decided you don’t have concrete damages, the case is not dismissed but instead goes back to state court.
The pleading requirements — how you have to word your lawsuit — are easier in state court than in federal court. So there are some advantages to filing directly in state court under the easier standard.
Finally, in state court we can serve “discovery” with the lawsuit so that let’s the collector know the case is serious and tends to make the collector focus a bit more earlier on the case.
What should you do next?
Ultimately, you and your attorney have to decide where to file.
For many years we always filed directly in federal court but lately we have been filing in state court. We let the defendants “remove” us to federal court and then we proceed from there.
But you will have to make your own decision, knowing your judges and the case law in your area to make sure you make the best decision.
If you have not yet filed a suit and do not have a lawyer, call us at 205-879-2447 if you live in Alabama. We’ll be happy to go over your options with you.
Talk to you soon!
PS — or you can fill out our contact form here.