As much as I love bragging, I have to keep this short because I’m a busy Czar these days.
Here’s the news: I was right all along. Hunstein is dead, and for the very reasons I predicted.
The harm caused by a non-public disclosure of information to a debt collector’s mail vendor–to the extent there is any–is simply not actionable. The Huntein panel’s effort to liken it to the tort of public disclosure of private fact simply does not work in this context. There is simply no harm to a debtor when basic pieces of information are supplied to a vendor for the sterile purpose of sending out notifications and demands for payment.
As I wrote back in May of last year:
Yes, public disclosures of private facts has long been barred by privacy law. But private disclosures of private facts are not—unless the facts are untrue. Plus public disclosures must be “highly offensive.” In Hunstein the Plaintiff’s data was shared only with a mail vendor and only for one purpose– to send him some mail. So there was no public disclosure of private facts and the private facts disclosed were accurate. Plus the disclosure was made to an interested party to facilitate a lawful activity. There is zero corollary common law protections for this sort of “disclosure” and zero real world harm resulted.
The en banc ruling issued today by the assembled Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals echos that ruling: Hunstein does his best to shove a nonpublic transfer of information into a tort targeting public disclosure, but it just does not fit.
As a result of today’s ruling–which you can read here Hunstein En Banc—Hunstein is officially dead and collectors can resume the practice of supplying information regarding a debt to vendors who provide mail and other contact efforts. (Some are suggesting the substantive ruling underlying Hunstein will survive but I do not see that happening. Was a bad ruling from top to bottom.)
Again sorry to be a bit short with the analysis. But I have to get back to it. Always around to chat!
The problem here is that the decision only reinforces the lack of Article III federal standing – now all of those cases will be headed back to the various state courts, from whence many of them came via removal. The merits fight is actually only beginning