Supreme Court Places Further Limits on Standing in FCRA Ruling

The Supreme Court today issued its ruling in TransUnion v. Ramirez, ruling that every member of a class must have Article III standing in order to be eligible to recover damages, dealing a blow to class-action plaintiffs across the country. This particular ruling is being seen as a reinforcement of the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling in Spokeo v. Robins. The Court ruled 5-4, with Justices Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett forming the majority. The Supreme Court’s edict reverses a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that said all the members of the class in this case had standing to sue.

A copy of the ruling can be accessed by clicking here.

In this case, Ramirez alleged that TransUnion violated the FCRA because it allegedly did not verify the names of individuals who had alerts added to their credit reports because their names may be on terrorist watch lists – a process which was done automatically. A District Court judge certified a class of individuals who had similar experiences to Ramirez. Ultimately, a jury awarded $60 million to the class members, a number that was reduced to $40 million when TransUnion appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit, however, took the unusual step of noting that every class member needed to have Article III standing at the damages phase of the suit. TransUnion appealed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which decided to hear arguments in the case.

“Only plaintiffs concretely harmed by a defendant’s statutory violation have Article III standing to seek damages against that private defendant in federal court,” the Supreme Court ruled in the case, in a majority opinion written by Justice Kavanaugh. In this case, most of the members of the class never had their credit reports shared with a third party, thus they never suffered the same harm as the named plaintiff. “The mere existence of inaccurate information, absent dissemination, traditionally has not provided the basis for a lawsuit in American courts,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “The plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that the misleading information in the internal credit files itself constitutes a concrete harm.”

The ruling from the Supreme Court remands the case back to the Ninth Circuit. Dissenting opinions were written by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Elena Kagan.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sign up for a webinar on Wednesday, June 30 at 3pm ET to hear a panel of legal experts — Brent Yarborough from Maurice Wutscher, Lauren Campisi from Hinshaw Culbertson, and Jason Tompkins from Balch & Bingham — discuss the TransUnion ruling and its implications for the industry, for consumer litigation, and for Hunstein. This webinar is being sponsored by Maurice Wutscher. Click here to register.

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