Ninth Circuit says Plaintiff in Spokeo case alleged concrete injury

Posted on: September 6th, 2017 by Steve Larson
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The Ninth Circuit found that the Plaintiff that filed a complaint against Spokeo alleging that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by reporting inaccurate information about him had alleged a sufficiently concrete injury to meet the Article III standing requirement established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the same case earlier this year. The unanimous three judge panel 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 reversed the dismissal, but the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case, and ruled that the Ninth Circuit should reconsider. In doing so, the U.S. Supreme Court said 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 concreteness 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.

“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,” the panel said in a decision authored by Circuit Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain. “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.”

The case is Thomas Robins v. Spokeo Inc., case number 11-56843, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.