The six-year fight over the type of harm a plaintiff must allege to satisfy the “injury in fact” requirement for lawsuits alleging false reporting of credit information took its latest turn this week. On Tuesday, August 15, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on remand from the United States Supreme Court, issued its opinion- hyperlink to the opinion] in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, a highly-watched case challenging whether a plaintiff can satisfy Article III standing based solely on a technical violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Plaintiff Thomas Robins brought a putative class action for willful violations of the FCRA against Spokeo, Inc., a company that generates profiles about people based on publicly available data. Among other things, Robins averred that Spokeo published an allegedly inaccurate profile about him on its website and therefore harmed his employment prospects at a time when he was out of work. The Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel held that the publication of materially inaccurate information about Robins sufficed as concrete injury for purposes of Article III standing, even without specific allegations of tangible harm from that publication.
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Last week, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, a case that may significantly impact the ability of plaintiffs to sue in federal court based solely on an alleged infringement of statutory rights. Plaintiffs often allege violation of statutory rights in privacy cases where standing for common law causes of action has proven more difficult to demonstrate and dismissal more frequent. A ruling from Supreme Court could upend this strategy, forcing plaintiffs to allege more than just a statutory injury across all their claims.