Back in early November of last year, Spokeo, Inc. (Spokeo) argued before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn a February 2014 ruling from the Ninth Circuit that revived the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) lawsuit filed against Spokeo by Thomas Robins. Robins alleges that Spokeo violated the FCRA by falsely reporting his financial, marital and educational status (for the better). He was portrayed as wealthy, married and a graduate degree recipient when in fact he was unemployed and struggling financially. Spokeo is asking the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision and overturn the prior decision in favor of Spokeo.
Justices were split in November on the issue of whether consumers can sue Spokeo for FCRA technical violations without any allegations of actual injury. On one hand, Justice Elena Kagan said, “People get these reports, and you don’t know what they’re doing with these reports. They might not have given you a job for that reason, or they might not have given you a job for some other reason.” However, Chief Justice John G. Roberts said, “We have a legion of cases that say you have to have actual injury.” To this point, many class actions have not proceeded past the pleadings stage for failure to show any damage or injury. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Spokeo it could build a strong precedent that consumers must assert actual harm before a case can proceed; if the Supreme Court rules for the government and the standard changes it could mean more privacy and security breach litigation. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on this matter in the first half of 2016.