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Attorneys React To Supreme Court’s Spokeo Ruling

May 17, 2016

Law360

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a consumer could not sue Spokeo Inc. for mere technical violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but found that the Ninth Circuit used an incomplete analysis when it concluded plaintiffs can sue companies without alleging actual injuries. Here, attorneys tell Law360 why the decision in Spokeo Inc. v. Thomas Robins et al. is significant.

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John G. Papianou, Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP

“The Spokeo decision is significant because it makes clear that to establish standing to sue in federal court, one must allege a concrete harm — not simply the violation of a statute. In other words, just because a defendant violated a statute does not mean a plaintiff suffered a ‘concrete’ harm that gives him the right to bring suit. The court, noted, for example, that if Spokeo listed the wrong zip code for plaintiff, that would not meet the ‘concrete’ harm requirement. ‘[N]ot all inaccuracies cause harm or present any material risk of harm. An example that comes readily to mind is an incorrect zip code. It is difficult to imagine how the dissemination of an incorrect zip code, without more, could work any concrete harm.’ Because the Ninth Circuit did not identify the ‘concrete harm’ plaintiff suffered, the court sent the case back down. The decision has particular significance for class action defendants. Many class actions are based on violations of alleged statutory rights without regard to whether the class members suffered any ‘real’ or ‘concrete’ harm. If a plaintiff is required to allege a concrete harm, that will likely make class certification more difficult.”

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