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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Splits 5-4 in Standing Ruling for Collection Companies

Posted Jun 23, 2008 11:53 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that collection companies can sue on behalf of pay phone providers disputing charges by long-distance companies, even though the collection companies had promised to turn over recovered fees to their clients.

The pay phone providers had assigned the right to recover the disputed charges to the collection companies, known as aggregators. One of them was APCC Services Inc., which filed suit against Sprint Communications Co. and AT&T Inc., the Associated Press reports.

Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said assignees of legal claims have long been permitted to bring suit. The standing inquiry should focus on whether the plaintiff’s injury is likely to be redressed by the litigation, rather than the plaintiff's plans for handling the recovered money, the opinion said (PDF).

“The injuries would be redressed whether the aggregators remit the litigation proceeds to the pay phone operators, donate them to charity, or use them to build new corporate headquarters,” Breyer wrote.

Writing in dissent, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said APCC does not have standing to sue because it has nothing to gain by the lawsuit, Dow Jones reports. The dispute concerned fees owed to pay phone owners when customers use toll-free numbers to make long-distance calls.

The case is Sprint v. APCC.

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