Oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court case
Spokeo v. Robins are scheduled to be heard on November 2. If you haven’t heard about
this case yet, you should be warned that the court’s final decision
could lead to dire consequences for people who wish to sue over misuse
of their personal information.
The plaintiff, Thomas Robins, initiated a putative class action lawsuit
against Spokeo, a people search engine that aggregates information from
White Pages listings, public records, and social media to help people
find and learn about others. This information includes age, past and current
addresses and phone numbers, marital status, family members, and even
pictures of a person’s residence. According to the website, none
of this information is to be deemed usable for any purpose protected by
the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but people like Robins agree that inaccuracies
displayed by sites like Spokeo could lead to unwanted consequences.
Robins alleges that the company posted false information about his marital
status, education, and wealth, claiming that this misrepresentation could
lead to a negative effect on his employment prospects, insurance, and
credit health. The issue at hand is that the plaintiff, and others in
the class, have not suffered concrete injury as a result of Spokeo’s
inaccuracies, and the Supreme Court now has to decide whether to confer
constitutional standing on plaintiffs who have suffered only hypothetical
injuries. They must determine whether Article III of the Constitution
allows mass litigation claiming statutory damages for thousands, or potentially
even millions, of plaintiffs who have not actually had anything bad happen
to them – yet.
According to the Public Justice brief: “It is true that not all FCRA
plaintiffs will have yet lost a job, been rejected for a loan, or been
turned down for an apartment because of inaccurate information in their
consumer files… but for many of them, it is simply a matter of
If Spokeo prevails in this case, existing class actions under a number
of consumer and civil rights laws, including those involving housing discrimination
and the public’s right to information, will be threatened. In the
future, plaintiffs would have to prove that they have suffered tangible,
“real- world harm” in order for their claim to be considered viable.
Should the Supreme Court decide that constitutional standing cannot be
conferred by Congress, people will no longer be able to sue a data broker
over misuse of their personal information.
To read more about this case, please
click here. For further information about your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting
Act (FCRA), please
visit Sulaiman Law Group, LTD online, or speak with a Chicago consumer lawyer from our firm at (312) 313-1613.