On remand from the Supreme Court: plaintiff has standing in Spokeo v. Robins

Many of our readers will recall the Supreme Court's decision last year in Spokeo v. Robins in which the Court explained, in general terms, what it means for a plaintiff to allege a "concrete" injury sufficient to establish article III standing. The Court then remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit for findings on "concreteness" measured against the plaintiff's claims under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Today, some 15 months later, the Ninth Circuit held, in this opinion, that the plaintiff had alleged a concrete injury.

Here is the Ninth Circuit's informal summary of the opinion:

On remand from the United States Supreme Court, Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016), the panel reversed the district court’s dismissal of an action brought by Thomas Robins against Spokeo, Inc., alleging willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”); held that Robins’ alleged injuries were sufficiently concrete for the purposes of Article III standing; and concluded that because the alleged injuries were also sufficiently particularized to Robins and caused by Spokeo’s alleged FCRA violations that were redressable in court, Robins adequately alleged the elements necessary for Article III standing.   

The Supreme Court held that to establish Article III standing, there must be an injury that is “real” and not “abstract” or merely “procedural.” Spokeo, Inc., 136 S. Ct. at 1549.

Robins alleged that Spokeo published an allegedly inaccurate report about him on its website, and further alleged that Spokeo willfully violated various procedural requirements under FCRA, including failing to follow reasonable procedures to assure the accuracy of the information in his consumer report. 

First, the panel held that Congress established the FCRA provisions at issue to protect consumers’ concrete interests (as opposed to purely procedural rights). Specifically, the panel concluded that the FCRA provisions in this case were crafted to protect consumers’ (like Robins’s) concrete interests in accurate credit reporting about themselves. Second, the panel held that Robins alleged FCRA violations that actually harmed his concrete interest. Specifically, the panel held that Robins alleged inaccuracies by Spokeo
concerning his age, marital status, educational background, and employment history that could be deemed a real harm to his employment prospects.

The panel rejected Spokeo’s suggestion that Robins’s allegations of harm were too speculative to establish a concrete injury. The panel held that both the challenged conduct and attendant injury had already occurred, where Spokeo published an inaccurate consumer report about Robins and the alleged intangible injury caused by the report had also occurred. The panel concluded that Robins had alleged injuries that were sufficiently concrete for purposes of Article III standing.

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