Supreme Court Vacates and Remands Ninth Circuit Decision on Article III Injury-in-Fact in Spokeo

By Andrew C. Glass, Brian M. Forbes, Gregory N. Blase, Robert W. Sparkes III, and Roger L. Smerage

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, — U.S. — (No. 13-1339). In rendering its decision, the Court reiterated that to establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must plead an injury-in-fact that is both particular to the plaintiff and concrete. The Court explained that whether a plaintiff has pleaded sufficient facts to allege a concrete injury requires more than just examining whether the plaintiff has pleaded that the defendant violated a federal statute. In particular, the Court held that “a bare procedural violation, divorced from any concrete harm,” does not suffice to “satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement of Article III.” Slip op. at 9-10. As such, the Spokeo plaintiff’s allegation that the defendant’s actions had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq., would not, by itself, demonstrate a plausible injury-in-fact. Rather, “Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation.” Slip op. at 9.

The Court concluded that although the Ninth Circuit had analyzed whether the plaintiff had alleged an injury particular to himself, it failed to analyze whether the plaintiff had alleged a concrete harm sufficient to establish Article III standing. For this reason, the Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision and remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit for further analysis.

The effect of the Supreme Court’s Spokeo ruling remains to be seen. Watch for the K&L Gates client alert discussing the full impact of Spokeo.

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