On April 27, the Supreme Court accepted certiorari review in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 13-1339, to address whether consumers can establish Article III standing without actual harm or injury, by alleging a violation of a federal statute.

Spokeo is a people search engine that organizes White Page listings, Public Records and Social Network information to help you safely find and learn about people.” Robins filed a putative class action against Spokeo, alleging it is a consumer reporting agency and issues consumer reports in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., because the Spokeo search results associated with his name were inaccurate. The district court dismissed the complaint, finding Robins had not alleged any actual or imminent harm and therefore lacked Article III standing.

Robins filed an amended complaint, alleging Spokeo’s search results had caused actual harm to his employment prospects and that his continued unemployment caused anxiety, stress, concern, and/or worry about diminished employment prospects. Although it initially found Robins had alleged an injury-in-fact, the district court reconsidered and dismissed the amended complaint, this time with prejudice, again reasoning Robins lacked Article III standing.

The Ninth Circuit reversed, and held the “creation of a private cause of action to enforce a statutory provision implies that Congress intended the enforceable provision to create a statutory right” and that “the violation of a statutory right is usually a sufficient injury in fact to confer standing.”  It held Robins had established Article III standing because “he allege[d] that Spokeo violated his statutory rights.”

In its petition for writ of certiorari, Spokeo presented the question, “Whether Congress may confer Article III standing upon a plaintiff who suffers no concrete harm, and who therefore could not otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court, by authorizing a private right of action based on a violation of a federal statute.” The Supreme Court’s decision could affect a wide range of so-called “no-injury” class actions.  As Spokeo noted in its petition, the same issue exists with respect to the TILA, FDCPA, TCPA, ERISA, RESPA, FHA, and the Lanham Act.