The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its much-anticipated ruling in Spokeo v. Robins, in which the Court considered whether Congress can confer Article III standing on a plaintiff to bring an action based on an alleged violation of a statute where that plaintiff has not otherwise suffered concrete injury. In a 6-2 decision, the Court held that whatever statutory violation may have occurred, a plaintiff must suffer an injury-in-fact that is concrete and particularized to satisfy Article III standing. Although “intangible” injuries can be concrete, and the “violation of a procedural right” can be sufficient in some circumstances, the Supreme Court noted that even an intangible injury must have actually occurred, such that “a bare procedural violation, divorced from any concrete harm” to the plaintiff cannot satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement.
The impact of the Court’s decision on the issue of standing is likely to be more limited than many observers and class action defendants initially hoped. The decision had the potential to have wide implications for putative privacy class actions brought under a host of federal laws, including the Video Privacy Protection Act (“VPPA”), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), and other statutes where Congress created private rights of action and provided statutory damages to compel compliance by those regulated. That said, the Court’s focus on an alleged harm being individualized to a plaintiff – i.e. by requiring it to be “concrete and particularized” – may make the bar for class certification harder for plaintiffs to clear.
Please read our full advisory discussing these developments here.