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Supreme Court Holds That “Bare Procedural Violations” of Statutes Do Not Satisfy Article III

Supreme Court 35719-0001By Alexander M. Smith

This morning, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, which posed the question of whether a plaintiff has standing to sue for statutory violations in the absence of actual injury.  Robins initially sued Spokeo, a website that compiles personal data, for allegedly disseminating incorrect information about him and other putative class members in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  While the district court initially dismissed his case for lack of standing, the Ninth Circuit reversed and held that Robins alleged a sufficiently individualized violation of his statutory rights under the FCRA to satisfy Article III.  The Supreme Court held that the Ninth Circuit’s analysis was “incomplete” because it focused only on whether Robins had alleged a sufficiently particularized injury without considering whether that injury was adequately concrete.   Although the Court acknowledged that a “concrete” injury need not be tangible, it made clear that such an injury must be “real” and not merely “abstract.”  In so doing, it made clear that a “bare procedural violation” of a statute is insufficient to satisfy Article III; instead, “Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation.”   While the Court noted that “a violation of the FCRA’s procedural requirements may result in no harm,” it ultimately declined to determine whether Robins had alleged a sufficiently concrete harm; instead, it remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit to decide that question in the first instance.