Supreme Court reinforces and clarifies requirement of Article III “Concrete Injury” standing in both individual and class actions

By James J. Boland, Freeborn & Peters LLP

On 25 June 2021, the United States Supreme Court dealt a blow to class actions asserting claims for statutory damages. The Court strongly reinforced the rule that each class member in a class action must have suffered a concrete injury-infact in order to pursue a claim for monetary damages, even if the claim is for violation of federal statute and Congress has authorised the recovery of statutory damages.

In TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, – US – (2021)¸ the district court certified a plaintiff class of asserting claims against TransUnion under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for failing to protect the accuracy of their credit files, including individuals whose credit information was never sent to third parties. The court held that all class members had standing to assert claims for damages, and the court of appeals affrmed this ruling.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgement. The Court held that because “[e]very class member must have Article III standing in order to recover individual damages”, class members whose reports had not been distributed had suffered no harm or injury, and lacked standing to assert claims for damages. In doing so, the Court rejected the argument that a risk of future harm is suffcient “injury” to support Article III standing. The Court held that while a risk of future harm may be suffcient to support standing to seek injunctive relief, it does not support standing in a suit for damages.

TransUnion is particularly significant for class actions. Class actions asserting violations of statutes such as the FCRA often are premised on the recovery of statutory damages. TransUnion squarely holds that “an injury in law is not an injury in fact”, and that only plaintiffs “who have been concretely harmed by a defendants’ statutory violation” may sue for damages, including statutory damages. That requirement applies to every class member in a purported class action, raising a number of potential issues relating to the ability to obtain class certification in future cases.


James J. Boland

James J. Boland

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Freeborn & Peters LLP
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Freeborn & Peters LLP is a full-service law firm in the US with international capabilities and offices in Illinois, New York, Virginia, Illinois and Florida. The firm serves clients across a broad range of sectors and targeted industries through its pioneering interdisciplinary approach.

James J. Boland is a Partner focusing on complex commercial litigation and domestic and international arbitration. Mr. Boland has extensive experience and has represented a variety of corporations, businesses and professional firms in matters involving reinsurance, antitrust, securities fraud, accountant liability, consumer protection, shareholder and derivative disputes, mergers and acquisitions disputes, and a variety of other commercial matters.
 


Published: Litigation & Dispute Resolution Newsletter, No. 15, Autumn 2021 l Photo: James - stock.adobe.com

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