Ninth Circuit Rules Against Spokeo on FCRA Claim

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
held that the plaintiff in Robins v. Spokeo, Inc., did not need to
allege actual injury to prove the existence of a willful violation
of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).   On appeal,
the Appellate Court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the
plainitff’s claim and held that a violation of a consumer’s
statutory rights was sufficient to state a claim under the
Act. 

In Robins v. Spokeo, Inc., the plaintiff, Thomas Robins
(“Robins”) sued Spokeo, an online company that represents
itself as the go-to website to retrieve “hard-to-find” information
about people, for wilfully
violating the FCRA
.  The claim began when Spokeo provided
inaccurate information about Robins regarding his employment
status, marital status, age, educational background and wealth
level during a background check.  At the lower court level,
Robins’ suit was dismissed stating he “failed to allege that Spokeo
caused him any actual or imminent harm.”  Robins alleged he
had trouble
seeking employment
and he was concerned that the inaccuracies
on his report would affect his ability to obtain credit, employment
or insurance in the future.  While Robins was unable to show
he suffered any actual harm as a result of the
inaccurate report
, he asserted Spokeo committed a willful
violation of the FCRA by failing to fulfill its duties under the
FCRA.  The lower court stated that he failed to state a valid
claim under the statute because he could not prove he suffered any
real damages and a future threat of damage was
insufficient.   

On the contrary, the Appellate Court found that a violation
alone of the FCRA was adequate to allow Robins to file suit and
that the statute does not require a plaintiff to prove he suffered
any actual damages.  Spokeo also argued that it is not a
consumer reporting agency under the FCRA and could not be held
liable under the statute.  The Court also disagreed with this
interpretation, and stated that the reports Spokeo provided were
intended to be used for employment and credit verification and
therefore its conduct was subject to the
FCRA.   

This decision against Spokeo will more than likely be applauded
by consumers nationwide, as suits dealing with
data privacy
have continually been dismissed for failure of the
plaintiffs to prove actual damages.   Bottom line, the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that a plaintiff can file suit
under the “FCRA”, even if the plaintiff cannot allege that he or
she suffered actual damages.

If you are in need of assistance or advice from counsel
regarding your credit
report
, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.