Supreme Court Affirms ‘Injury in Fact’ Class Action Standard

In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court today affirmed the principle that plaintiffs seeking to bring class actions in federal court must demonstrate concrete and particular “injury in fact” in order to have standing. The principle is intended to prevent class actions from being brought in response to minor technical violations of law.

In the case of Spokeo v. Robins, the court found that the appellate court had not adequately imposed this requirement on the plaintiff and sent the case back for further proceedings. The case represents a win for banks, which have been subject to “a rash of abusive class actions,” ABA and several other trade groups said in a friend-of-the-court brief.

“When individuals suffer injury in fact, the courts have traditionally been open to them to seek redress,” ABA and the other groups wrote. “But when they allege a bare statutory violation, they are enforcing the law (or their view of it) and pursuing a bounty.”

The Spokeo case involved a plaintiff who sued the online database company Spokeo over inaccurate information it had reported about him, arguing that the company had not complied with the Fair Credit Reporting Act but not pleading injury in fact. Federal “standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation,” the court found, adding that “Robins cannot satisfy the demands of Article III by alleging a bare procedural violation.”