A putative class action lawsuit against data broker Spokeo.com for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and California’s Unfair Competition Law was recently dismissed for lack of standing.
In the first amended complaint, brought in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the plaintiff claimed that Spokeo aggregated data from a variety of sources and sold consumer reports to subscribers. The plaintiff alleged that Spokeo uses the aggregated data to draw conclusions and make predictions relating to data subjects’ wealth, credit, and lifestyle choices, and that a “significant portion of the information that it reports is wholly inaccurate.” The plaintiff, who was unemployed at the time the lawsuit was brought, asserted that his Spokeo profile was incorrect and that this incorrect information caused him “actual harm” in his employment search because he was still unemployed.
After initially concluding in May 2011 that the plaintiff’s first amended complaint sufficiently alleged an injury-in-fact with respect to the FCRA claims, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II reversed his prior ruling on September 19, 2011, concluding that the Plaintiff lacked standing for lack of a cognizable injury-in-fact. The Court concluded that “the alleged harm to Plaintiff’s employment prospects is speculative, attenuated and implausible.” The Court added that if complaints such as the plaintiff’s were allowed to proceed, “courts will be inundated by web surfers’ endless complaints.” This case demonstrates that even a strong legal defense will not necessarily prevent costly litigation.