In Nagan v. Optio Sols. Llc, No. 19-C-170, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 173286, at *7 (E.D. Wis. Oct. 4, 2019), the District Court held that an FDCPA class could be certified despite the fact that the classmember would receive almost nothing.
Optio asserts that a class action is not the superior method of litigating the issues here because any amount recovered by the individual class members would be de minimis. Noting that the FDCPA caps class recovery at the lesser of $500,000 or 1 percent of the debt collector’s net worth, Optio claims that the maximum each of the estimated 2,697 class members would recover is $11.71. Citing Boucher v. Financial System of Green Bay, Inc., No. 17-C-132, 2019 WL 1543988 (E.D. Wis. Apr. 8, 2019), Optio maintains that a de minimis recovery is a proper basis to deny a motion for class certification. In Boucher, the plaintiffs alleged that they received a debt collection letter that violated the FDCPA because it was false, deceptive, and misleading. The court originally found that the letter met the “safe-harbor” rule and dismissed the action. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the statement at issue was materially false and misleading because the defendant admitted that late charges and other charges could not be legally or contractually added to the plaintiffs’ debts. See Boucher v. Fin. Sys. of Green Bay, Inc., 880 F.3d 362 (7th Cir. 2018). On remand, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint and a motion for class certification. Given that liability had already been established as a matter of law and in light of the defendant’s net worth, the court concluded that a class action would not be the superior method under which to resolve the individual class members’ disputes. It explained that, because each class member would only recover $1.00 and would recover more by opting out of the class, there was virtually no incentive for anyone to remain a class member. That, along with the expense of mailing class notices, the cost of administration, and the additional attorneys’ fees that would be incurred, the court found that the plaintiffs had not satisfied the superiority requirement. Boucher, 2019 WL 1543988, at *6. Boucher is distinguishable from the instant case, however, because liability has not yet been established. The Seventh Circuit has indicated in dicta that “a de minimis recovery (in monetary terms) should not automatically bar a class action.” Mace v. Van Ru Credit Corp., 109 F.3d 338, 334 (7th Cir. 1997). Other courts in this circuit have found class actions to be the superior method for adjudicating FDCPA claims, even if the recovery is de minimis, because the FDCPA “contemplates class actions even though an individual recovery may be larger.” Nichols v. Northland Grps., Inc., No. 05 C 2701, 2006 WL 897867, at *11 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2006); Spice v. Blatt, Hasenmiller, Liebsker & Moore LLC, No. 1:16-CV-366, 2018 WL 525723, at *9 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 24, 2018) (“The plain language of the FDCPA supports class certification even where individual class member recovery is likely de minimis.”); Spiegel v. Ashwood Fin., Inc., No. 16 C 1998, 2017 WL 443168, at *3 (S.D. Ind. Feb. 2, 2017) (“Even where recovery is de minimis, there is value in certifying a class to address [*10] potentially unlawful behavior that would not otherwise be addressed because the barriers to bringing suit are too high.”); Pierre v. Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc., No. 16 C 2895, 2017 WL 1427070, at *10 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 21, 2017) (finding that class action is superior for adjudicating case even if class recovery necessarily will be de minimis). The court concludes that a class action would be superior to the large number of individual lawsuits regarding the same legal issue and facts that would otherwise result. Accordingly, Nagan has satisfied the superiority requirement of Rule 23(b)(3).