The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that a man who accused Spokeo of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by reporting inaccurate information about him had claimed a sufficient injury to meet the Article III standing bar established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case last year. A unanimous three-judge panel again reversed the lower court’s dismissal of Plaintiff Thomas Robins’ putative class action accusing Spokeo of inaccurately reporting that he was wealthy and had a graduate degree when in fact he was struggling to find work.
The Ninth Circuit had previously ruled to revive the suit in 2014. The case is now back in the appeals court and it must reconsider its decision. This comes after the Supreme Court in a landmark May 2016 decision ruled that Plaintiffs must allege concrete injuries and not rely on mere statutory violations to establish Article III standing. The high court remanded the dispute to the Ninth Circuit to decide if Robins’ claims met this standard.
On remand, the appellate panel rejected Spokeo’s argument that Robins’ allegations of harm were too speculative to establish a concrete injury. The Ninth Circuit instead concluded that Robins had met the standing bar by alleging an intangible statutory injury without any additional harm because Congress had crafted the FCRA provisions at issue in the dispute to protect consumers’ concrete interests in accurate credit reporting about themselves. The panel, in a decision authored by Circuit Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, said:
While Robins may not show an injury-in-fact merely by pointing to a statutory cause of action, the Supreme Court also recognized that some statutory violations, alone, do establish concrete harm. Even if their likelihood actually to harm Robins’s job search could be debated, the inaccuracies alleged in this case do not strike us as the sort of ‘mere technical violation[s]’ which are too insignificant to present a sincere risk of harm to the real-world interests that Congress chose to protect with FCRA.
Robins is represented by Jay Edelson, Rafey S. Balabanian, Ryan Andrews, Roger Perlstadt and J. Aaron Lawson of Edelson PC and William Consovoy and Patrick Strawbridge of Consovoy McCarthy Park PLLC. The case is Thomas Robins v. Spokeo Inc., (case number 11-56843) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
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