US Supreme Court

US Supreme Court Considers Whether Mere Statutory Violation Provides Standing in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins

By: Jeremy M. Creelan

Supreme Court 35719-0001
On November 2, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, No. 13-1339, which could have far-reaching implications for consumer-related class actions. 

The plaintiff, Thomas Robins, filed a putative class action in federal district court in California alleging that Spokeo, Inc., willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq..  Robins alleged that Spokeo published inaccurate information about him, and thus threatened his employment prospects. 

Among other requirements, the FCRA requires consumer credit reporting agencies to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of” consumer reports, 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b), and includes a private right of action for consumers to obtain actual damages for violation of these requirements.

The district court dismissed Robins’ complaint under FRCP 12(b)(1) for lack of Article III standing. The district court reasoned that he lacked standing because he had failed to allege that the statutory violations he identified had caused him any “actual or imminent harm.” 

The Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that “the violation of a statutory right is usually a sufficient injury in fact to confer standing.” The court rejected the argument that, to have standing under Article III, a plaintiff must allege actual harm instead of just the violation of a statutory right. 

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