On February 4, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that claims under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) confer Article III standing regardless of any actual harm resulting from the defendant’s violation(s). See, Robins v. Spokeo, Inc, 11-56843, 2014 WL 407366 (9th Cir. Feb. 4, 2014).
“Article III standing” refers to the constitutional requirement in federal courts mandating that a plaintiff establish, among other things, an “injury in fact” to sustain his or her action. The consumer statute in question, the FCRA, regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit reports. For negligent violations of the FCRA, the claimant may be able to recover actual damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. For willful noncompliance, a claimant may recover the greater of either actual damages or a statutory minimum of $100 to a maximum of $1,000, plus punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
The Court in Robins found that defendant’s act of publishing inaccurate personal information concerning plaintiff was a violation of plaintiff’s statutory rights under the FCRA, which was sufficient to confer standing to sue, even without proof of actual damages. This decision marks a victory for consumers bringing claims for improper credit furnishing and reporting. Specifically, the ruling stands for the proposition that a plaintiff may bring a claim under a consumer protection statute (such as the FCRA), where damages are often difficult to demonstrate or prove, without fear of outright dismissal of his or her claim for lack of “injury in fact.”