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Plaintiff Suing Spokeo for FCRA Violations Wins Standing Issue

By George Khoury, Esq. on August 21, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Thomas Robbins filed a class action lawsuit against Spokeo back in 2011, but his case has not made it very far due to being held up on appeals. Robbins v. Spokeo even made it all the way up to the Supreme Court last year, before being sent back to the Ninth Circuit again for further analysis.

Now, the Ninth Circuit has finished that further analysis and issued their opinion, sending the case back to the lower district court to proceed on the merits. Despite being over half a decade old at this point, the class action component of the case has not even begun.

What's This Case About?

Robbins claimed that Spokeo violated the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act by publishing wildly inaccurate credit report information about him. Somewhat surprisingly, among the many inaccuracies, Robbins asserted that Spokeo inaccurately stated he was wealthy and held advanced degrees. Additionally, it misstated his family and other information.

Robbins alleges that the misinformation is harmful because potential employers could see it and find him to be overqualified based on the false information, thereby harming his chances of being hired for work.

Injury in Fact Standing May Not in Fact Require a Physical Injury

Under Article III standing, in order for a plaintiff to have standing, there must an actual "injury in fact." This means that a plaintiff "must personally have suffered some actual or threatened injury that can fairly be traced to the challenged action of defendant and that the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision."

In Robbins' case, the fact that Spokeo published the false information, and that the false information was significant info an employer or interested party would rely upon, rather than immaterial info (like an erroneous zip code), made all the difference to the Ninth Circuit. However, Spokeo has vowed to fight this case out, and based on the potential widespread backlash if a class is certified, there's a strong chance this case will see the Supreme Court again, maybe before it ever sees a trial, or even a trial date.

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