Spokeo Resurfaces: Ninth Circuit Holds FCRA Plaintiff Has Standing to Sue

On August 15th, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Robins v. Spokeo, finding that plaintiff Thomas Robins has standing to continue his Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) suit against Spokeo, Inc. In its opinion, a unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit articulated a two-part concreteness test to determine standing. The court concluded that Robins’ allegations satisfied the test because the FCRA provision at issue was designed to protect a concrete interest and the alleged violation of that protection presented a material risk of harm to Robins. The court also rejected Spokeo’s argument that Robins’ injury was only speculative. The Ninth Circuit’s Spokeo decision is noteworthy not only because of the case’s protracted history in the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court, but because it shows the evaluation of individual claims that courts must undertake in determining whether plaintiffs have standing.

We have written extensively about Spokeo (most recently, here, here, here, and here) throughout its now-lengthy life cycle. By way of brief background, Robins filed a putative class action against Spokeo alleging that the company’s publicly-available report about him contained incorrect information regarding, inter alia, his age, marital status, and employment status. He claimed that this violated the FCRA’s requirement in Section 1681e(b) that consumer reporting agencies must follow reasonable procedures to ensure the accuracy of information they report. The Central District of California initially dismissed the case for lack of standing, but the Ninth Circuit reversed that ruling. In May 2016, the Supreme Court reversedthe Ninth Circuit’s first Spokeo order because it concluded the Ninth Circuit had not fully analyzed whether Robins suffered a concrete injury. In reaching this conclusion, the Court distinguished concrete injuries from mere “procedural violations” and noted that “not all inaccuracies cause harm or present any material risk of harm.” FULL RELEASE