No Evidence of Injury Required for FCRA Claim: Spokeo Takes it on the Chin in the 9th Circuit


Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) litigation is trending. It is no secret that FCRA cases have picked up some steam over the past year. While new class actions about background checks continue to pop up almost weekly, an Appellate ruling in a four-year-old case is causing a stir. Spokeo is the defendant in a case that has been festering in the 9thCircuit Court of Appeals. It’s an FCRA case, and the issue is damages.

Some might remember Spokeo as the company that battled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over whether or not it was a consumer reporting agency that could be held accountable for providing employment background screening reports under the FCRA. Spokeo said no, it was not a CRA, and the FTC said yes. The company paid a substantial fine ($800K) for its trouble, and along the way it was sued for allegedly reporting misinformation to employers and recruiters on its website.

A complaint, originally brought by Thomas Robins on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, alleged that inaccurate information on Spokeo’s website was a “willful” violation of the FCRA.

Spokeo was initially successful in arguing that the plaintiff’s claims were without merit since Robins, while admittedly unemployed, had not suffered any “actual or imminent harm”—a required element of a cause of action under the statute. The 9th Circuit has ruled otherwise.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Angela Preston, EmployeeScreenIQ | Attorney Advertising

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