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Are Aggregators of Government-Created Data the Next Target for Large Class Action Lawsuits?

There is little doubt that large class action lawsuits are a content aggregator’s worst nightmare. This especially holds true for those who transact significant amounts of data which may include government-created public records.

In a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins , the personal information pertaining to the plaintiff, Robins, was allegedly inaccurate, stating that he was younger and wealthier than he is, and married when he is not. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Spokeo had presumably violated the law merely by putting forward inaccurate information and, as a result, the plaintiff could automatically receive up to $1,000 per instance of inaccurate information in a court judgment.

However, because Robins was not denied a job or turned down for credit due to these reported inaccuracies, there was no “real-world” harm. Without actual harm to himself, Robins should not have standing under the Constitution.

The bottom line: If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiff, companies that aggregate and own significant amounts of data may be subject to increased class actions.

What makes this situation of added concern to CSPRA members and other companies is that the information in which those companies transact is government-created public records, whether a bankruptcy, lien, or divorce document. The companies report those documents as is, yet they have no control over the content of the information and must report it accurately. So when the government creates an error in producing the documents, the amicus brief is arguing that CSPRA companies should have no liability for faithfully reproducing those documents. Yet, if that question has to go to trial and jury to be decided, the pressure to settle over what might be millions in liability may be too great for these companies not to settle early. Not only is that economically destructive, but the Constitution prohibits no-harm lawsuits.

© 2019 Foley & Lardner LLP

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Joe Jacqupt, Policy Attorney, Foley Law Firm
Partner

Joe Jacquot is a partner and business attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP. He represents clients in complex federal and state legal and policy matters. Mr. Jacquot counsels companies in financial services regulatory matters and in any matter involving state Attorneys General. His practice includes a wide range of matters including investigation, litigation, federal agency action and crisis communication, and he has deep ties with Attorneys General nationwide as well as with Congress. Mr. Jacquot is a member of the firm’s Consumer Financial Services and Finance &...

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Jennifer Keas, Foley, Arbitration, Dispute Resolution Lawyer,
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Jennifer M. Keas is senior counsel and a litigation lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP and a member of the Consumer Financial Services, Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution and Distribution & Franchise Practices.

As a member of the Litigation Department, Ms. Keas has experience assisting Foley’s clients with a broad range of litigation, trial, and appellate matters, including:

Class action defense in matters pending before state and federal courts

Defense of claims filed under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 (RESPA) and related federal and state unfair trade practice and consumer protection laws

Multidistrict settlement in a series of class action lawsuits in the consumer protection arena

Defense of claims filed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

Preparing briefs for matters before appellate courts in the Second, Fourth, and Sixth Circuits and an amicus brief in a RESPA case before the U.S. Supreme Court

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Christi Lawson, Foley Lardner, Orlando Litigation Lawyer
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Christi A. Lawson is a partner and litigation lawyer in the Orlando office of Foley & Lardner LLP. She has first chair experience representing Fortune 100 companies. Ms. Lawson is a member of the firm's Consumer Financial Services, Labor & Employment and Privacy, Security & Information Management Practices, as well as the Trade Secret/Noncompete Specialty Practice.

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Michael D. Leffel, Foley Lardner, Complex Commercial Litigation
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Michael D. Leffel is a partner and litigation lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP. Mr. Leffel’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation matters, including class actions. Mr. Leffel is the chair of the firm’s Class Action Working Group. He is a member of the firm’s Appellate, Consumer Financial Services, and Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practices

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Sean P. Smith, complex commercial litigator, construction, securities, Foley
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Sean P. Smith is an associate and litigation lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP, where his work has covered a wide variety of complex litigation issues, including construction claims, securities fraud lawsuits, labor and employment matters, and contractual and other commercial disputes. He has also assisted with representing both individuals and various corporate clients in connection with government and internal investigations. Mr. Smith is a member of the firm’s Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Labor & Employment, and Appellate Practices. He is also a...

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