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9th Circuit Finds Article III Standing in Spokeo on Remand

The Ninth Circuit has determined that a plaintiff has standing to bring claims against a credit report company for alleged misrepresentation of personal information because the plaintiff sufficiently asserted a concrete injury in fact.

In Robins v. Spokeo, Inc., the plaintiff alleged that his personal information including his marital status, age, wealth, education level, and profession were allegedly being misrepresented in a report that was created by the credit reporting company.  When the plaintiff became aware of the inaccuracies, he sued the company for willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), claiming that the company did not follow reasonable procedures to ensure accuracy of the reports, and that the errors led to harm of his employment prospects.

The district court dismissed the case, finding that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue under Article III of the U.S. Constitution because the plaintiff only alleged a violation of FCRA, but not an injury-in-fact.  The plaintiff appealed, and in 2014 the Ninth Circuit ruled that there was a concrete injury, and therefore proper standing to sue because the plaintiff alleged a violation of his statutory rights under FCRA, which directly resulted in harm to the plaintiff.  The Supreme Court subsequently vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision in a highly-publicized ruling, holding that a plaintiff does not automatically satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement of Article III whenever a statute grants a person a right, and the ability to sue to vindicate that right.  Instead, even when a statute has allegedly been violated, Article III requires that the violation have caused some real, and not just purely legal, harm to the plaintiff.  The case was remanded with instructions for the Ninth Circuit court to consider whether the plaintiff had alleged a concrete injury, sufficient to establish Article III standing.

FCRA requires, in relevant part, that consumer reporting agencies regulate the creation and use of consumer reports.  The Ninth Circuit held that the information that was misrepresented about the plaintiff in this case was the type of information that may be important to employers or others making use of a consumer report.  Ensuring these reports are accurate is directly related to the goals of FCRA, and therefore because the reports were inaccurate and were published on the internet they presented a sincere risk of harm to the real-world interests of the plaintiff.

For these reasons the court reversed the holding that the plaintiff lacked standing, and remanded the case back to district court for further proceedings.

The full opinion can be found here: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/08/15/11-56843.pdf.