Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, an important case presenting the question of whether a plaintiff who cannot show any actual harm from a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) nevertheless has standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution to sue for statutory damages in federal court. The CFPB, together with the U.S. Department of Justice, filed a brief in the case as amicus curiae in which it supported the plaintiff.
A Supreme Court decision in favor of the defendant in Spokeo could have far-reaching consequences because numerous statutes other than the FCRA allow plaintiffs to recover statutory damages where actual damages for violations are often difficult to prove or nonexistent. Also, a ruling in favor of the defendant would affect state law statutory damages claims that are filed in federal court and could discourage the filing of class actions. In countless class actions filed in federal court, the plaintiffs’ class action bar has obtained massive recoveries based on alleged technical violations that did not cause any actual injury to the named plaintiffs and class members.
For a report on the Justices’ comments at the oral argument, see our legal alert.