Supreme Court rules unsuccessful FDCPA plaintiffs must pay opponents' costs

The Supreme Court held today that an unsuccessful FDCPA plaintiff in a non-frivolous case must pay the defendant's costs (which could be hundreds or occasionally, as in this case, thousands of dollars), even though the statute's text provides for attorney-fee- and cost-shifting only where "an action under this section was brought in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment." The Court held that this provision speaks only to cases brought in bad faith and/or for harassment and that the statute remains "silent" on whether costs can be assessed in other circumstances. Thus, according to the Court, the bad faith/harassment provision did not displace the usual presumption under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) that a losing party is liable for costs, even though Rule 54(d) states that its presumption should yield when a statute "provides otherwise."

Dissenting, Justice Sotomayor contended that, "Far from merely restating a district court’s discretion to award costs, this provision imposes a prerequisite to the exercise of that discretion: a finding by the court that an action was brought in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment." In holding otherwise, "[t]he Court's opinion the Court ignores the plain meaning of both the FDCPA and Rule 54(d)(1) and renders the statutory language at issue in this case meaningless."

The case is Marx v. General Revenue Corp. Public Citizen litigated the case at the Supreme Court level.