May 27, 2020

May 27, 2020

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May 26, 2020

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Supreme Court Holds Plaintiffs Must Allege "Concrete" Injury to Bring a Claim

"No injury" class actions based on technical statutory violations appear to have taken a significant blow today with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins. The high court held that plaintiffs who allege only a bare violation of a statute without any resulting harm lack constitutional standing to bring a claim.

The claims in Spokeo arose under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) but the Court’s ruling has the potential to impact plaintiffs’ ability to have standing to bring and pursue statutory class action lawsuits under a variety of other federal statutes as well, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, and other consumer protection statutes. Under the FCRA alone, there may be hundreds of currently pending class actions around the country that are at risk of being dismissed as a result of today’s ruling.

Among other things, the FCRA requires employers to adhere to certain procedural requirements in order to obtain and use background information (such as criminal and credit information) about applicants for employment. Commonly-alleged violations include defects in an employer’s written notice before obtaining a consumer report and the procedure and timing of providing advance notice of adverse action following the receipt of a negative consumer report/background check. The FCRA provides for statutory damages up to $1,000 for each "willful" violation, along with punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Putative classes may number in the thousands depending on the size of the employer. These cases seek significant recoveries on a class wide basis for "technical" violations of the FCRA often despite the absence of any real injury to the plaintiffs. The statute also is used to bring class action claims against Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) who fail to follow the strict requirements of the FCRA.

The Court’s 6-2 decision  may have put an end to many of these types of cases, holding that a plaintiff must allege an actual, concrete injury to maintain statutory individual or class action claims. In Spokeo, plaintiff Thomas Robins alleged violations of the FCRA based on the people-search website’s  purported publication of false information about him. In February 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Robins did not need to allege an actual concrete injury (beyond a violation of a statutory right) to maintain his statutory class action claims under the FCRA. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, holding that plaintiffs must allege an actual, concrete injury to have Article III standing to pursue statutory class action claims.

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About this Author

Michael Kass, Labor, Employment, Attorney, Armstrong Teasdale, law firm

Michael Kass is chair of Armstrong Teasdale's Employment and Labor Law practice group and is a former co-chair of the firm's Non-Compete/Trade Secrets practice group. He guides organizations, from small closely-held businesses to Fortune 100 companies, through the complex issues faced when managing employees.

Michael defends employers and their managers in state and federal courts and before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board. Such...

Matthew D Turner, Armstrong Teesdale Law Firm, Civil Litigation Attorney
Of Counsel

Matt Turner is a trial attorney practicing civil litigation with an emphasis on class action defense, insurance litigation, complex commercial disputes, administrative law and appeals. 

Class Actions. Matt regularly defends companies against class action lawsuits alleging unfair trade practices, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) violations, Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) claims and other state and federal violations. His clients in this area include insurance companies, financial institutions, cable service providers and food producers, among others. 

Administrative Law/Professional Licensing. Based in the state capital, Matt represents clients in matters involving administrative agencies and government officials, including the Missouri Attorney General, Missouri Dental Board, Board of Nursing, Missouri Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, MO HealthNet, Missouri Board of Nursing Home Administrators, Department of Revenue, the Missouri Public Service Commission and the Administrative Hearing Commission. He often assists licensed professionals in disciplinary and other matters that put their license to practice at risk. Matt’s experience extends to representing Medicaid providers faced with recoupment claims. 

Insurance. Matt serves insurance companies in coverage assessments and interpleader actions as well as the defense of personal injury, premises liability, wrongful death, toxic tort, general liability, errors and omissions and professional liability claims. In addition, he prosecutes and defends claims involving insurance receiverships and other proceedings involving the Missouri Department of Insurance, including market conduct examinations. 


Paul Crocker, Armstrong Teasdale Law Firm, Commercial Litigation Attorney

Paul Croker is a dynamic commercial litigator, a trusted legal advisor and national counsel to clients facing class action and business litigation throughout the country. As a result, he has been selected by his peers as a Rising Star in Missouri/Kansas Super Lawyers®. His clients range from small family-owned businesses to national companies and are engaged in a variety of different industries including consumer finance, banking, construction, technology and real estate.

Business Litigation 
Paul handles business...