Can We Say Goodbye to Six-Figure Emotional Distress Jury Awards? The Future of Actual Damages Awards in Light of the Seventh Circuit’s Standing Decisions

Imagine you are a juror selected to sit for a case in which the plaintiff contends that the defendant debt collector violated certain provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).  You and your fellow jurors find that the plaintiff established a prima facie case for a violation of the FDCPA and that the debt collector is liable to the plaintiff.  The judge then provides you with the following jury instruction:

If you decide for the plaintiff on the issue of the defendant’s liability, you must fix the amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate the plaintiff for any of the following elements of damages proved by the evidence to have resulted from the defendant’s violation or violations of the FDCPA:

Emotional distress awards under the FDCPA have spawned an avalanche of comments in recent years.  The law does not set a definite standard by which to calculate compensation for emotional distress damages. There is also no requirement that a witness testifies regarding an appropriate amount of compensation for the violation.  The only requirement is that the compensation for emotional distress must be just and reasonable. 

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