Deepening the Divide: D.C. Circuit Continues Circuit Split Regarding Standing in Data Breach Class Action Based on Risk of Future Harm
Authors: Andrew C. Glass, Matthew N. Lowe
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently reaffirmed its position that a plaintiff can establish Article III standing (federal court subject matter jurisdiction) based solely on the risk of potential future harm following a data breach involving his or her personal information. The decision continues the split between the federal circuit courts of appeals regarding the issue.
In re Office of Personnel Management arose out of an alleged 2014 data breach of the eponymous office (the “OPM”). The plaintiffs, current and former federal employees and their unions, sought to represent a putative class of individuals whose personal information, including social security numbers, addresses, and birth dates, was allegedly exposed in the breach. The plaintiffs asserted that certain putative class members had experienced financial fraud or identity theft as a result of the breach and that other members faced the “ongoing risk that they … will become victims of financial fraud and identity theft in the future.” The district court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, holding that the putative class members who had allegedly experienced financial fraud had not pleaded facts demonstrating that the fraud was traceable to the OPM, and that the members who had only pleaded risk of future injury did not plausibly allege that such injury was either substantial or clearly impending.Read More