Fifth Circuit

Mental Anguish, a Letter and a Frigid Fifth Circuit

In this particular Opinion, the cold Fifth Circuit panel opinion shows a lack of compassion and disinterest to the homeowners pleadings.

In this particular Opinion, the cold Fifth Circuit panel opinion shows a lack of compassion and disinterest to the homeowners mental anguish pleadings.

“This evidence discussing mental anguish resulting from the entire course of events fails to establish a link between the challenged misrepresentations contained in a single letter and the Searcys’ alleged suffering. Although the letter may have gotten the Searcys’ hopes up, the understandable anguish they described was the result of being unable to consistently make their mortgage payments over a number of years and facing impending foreclosure proceedings. The absence of damages means the state debt collection claim fails. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.”

Panel consisted of: ELROD, COSTA, and HO

Searcy v CitiMortgage




We next address whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the state debt collection claim alleging misrepresentations in Citi’s March 3rd letter. See TEX. FIN. CODE § 392.304(a)(8), (19).

That letter gave the Searcys 30 days to appeal the denial of their modification request and noted that no foreclosure sale would be carried out during that time.

The letter, which Citi admits was sent in error, made little sense given that the foreclosure sale was scheduled for the next day.

To sustain a claim under the Texas Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Searcys have to demonstrate that Citi is a “debt collector” that committed a wrongful act “in debt collection or obtaining information concerning a consumer.” Id. § 392.304(a).

If they can do that, they also need to prove damages. Clark v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Tr. Co., 2016 WL 931216, at *6 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 11, 2016) (citing Brown v. Oaklawn Bank, 718 S.W.2d 678, 680 (Tex. 1986)).

Recoverable damages include those resulting from financial harms or mental anguish.

The Searcys can show neither.

As with just about any civil claim, there must be a causal connection between the improper debt collection practice and the harm suffered. See Elston v. Resolution Servs., Inc., 950 S.W.2d 180, 185 (Tex. App.—Austin 1997, no writ) (holding plaintiff failed to carry his burden because he did not “link” his alleged injuries to the violations of which he complained); cf. Lawrence v. Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp., 808 F.3d 670, 674–75 (5th Cir. 2015) (finding claimed damages too speculative for recovery when plaintiffs provided no evidence that they were entitled to a loan modification).

The Searcys argue that they suffered a variety of financial harms: “the March 4, 2014 foreclosure sale that took place, the loss of title to [their] home, [and] the subsequent litigation to defend a forcible detainer suit.”

But the March 3rd letter caused none of these harms; the Searcys’ failure to pay their home loan and the subsequent foreclosure did.

Indeed, Faye admitted that the couple suffered no financial harm from the March 3rd letter.

When asked what harm that letter caused, either financial or emotional, she replied “[e]motionally is all.” There is no evidence of financial harm resulting from the March 3rd letter nor does it make sense that there would be given the sequence of events leading to the foreclosure.

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Mental Anguish, a Letter and a Frigid Fifth Circuit
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