Supreme Court Speaks on Spokeo: Where Are We Now?


Last week the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling and opinion in a consumer law case.  The case of Spokeo Inc. v. Robins involves a consumer who sued an online entity which qualifies as a consumer reporting agency under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Robins alleged Spokeo posted inaccurate information about his financial worth, among other things.  However it is unclear just what the decision in  means for the consumer law landscape.

The key issue in Spokeo seemed to be that of concrete harm a/k/a actual injury.  Spokeo sought dismissal of the consumer’s claim asserting that the consumer had failed to allege how he had been harmed by several factual inaccuracies posted online by Spokeo.  The consumer claimed Spokeo’s publication of the false information was a technical violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and thereby entitled him to recover statutory damages.  In its 6-2 decision the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to analyze whether the particular violations of FCRA that the consumer alleged create a “degree of risk sufficient to meet the concreteness requirement.”  The Supreme Court did not, decide “whether the Ninth Circuit’s ultimate conclusion—that Robins adequately alleged an injury in fact—was correct.”

So, in sum, the Spokeo case is not over and the consumer could still prevail.  Time will tell and the question looms as to whether the case will eventually make its way back to the Supremes for another look.  Until then consumer lawyers across the country handling cases arising under FCRA, FDCPA, ECOA, and other similar federal and state statutes will be keeping Spokeo on their proverbial radar for future blips.

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