On Monday, May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a long-awaited ruling in Spokeo v. Robins. In Spokeo, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded the Ninth Circuit's finding that a class action suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) could be maintained despite the absence of an actual injury. The claimant in Spokeo alleged an FCRA violation on the basis that Spokeo stated inaccurate information in its background search engine. The district court dismissed the suit finding that no tangible injury had been alleged. In a matter involving considerable amicus briefing, the Supreme Court found that a plaintiff's alleged injury must be "concrete and particularized" to satisfy Article III standing requirements. In this respect, the Court acknowledged that an injury may be "intangible" but must be substantiated to some degree so as to amount to an "injury in fact."
The FCRA is but one of many statutes that proscribe certain activity and provide for statutory fines or penalties. The central issue in Spokeo focused on whether a claimant must have an actual injury in order to have standing even when a statutory violation has been adequately alleged. Accordingly, the decision has a broad application, particularly to class action litigation involving various federal statutes, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA) and many of the enumerated consumer financial protection laws. However, the Supreme Court did not squarely address the central issue of intangible damages but instead remanded the case for further analysis over whether the claimant has alleged a "concrete" injury.
In light of the remand, it is possible that this matter may return again to the Supreme Court for further review.
The complete decision may be found here.