In an expert analysis article published by Law360 (subscription) entitled “Spokeo Still Standing: No Sign Of A Circuit Split,” Lieff Cabraser attorneys Nicholas Diamand and Andrew Kaufman review the U.S. Supreme Court’s May decision in Spokeo Inc. v. Robins, et al. The decision “reaffirmed that, under principles of federal jurisdiction, invasions of privacy give plaintiffs standing to assert their rights in federal court,” wrote Diamand and Kaufman.
In Spokeo, Thomas Robins sued internet database Spokeo under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, claiming that the website published incorrect information about him. While the Court split on the question of whether Robins himself had standing, it unanimously rejected the defense bar’s proposed cramped construction of Article III standing that would have eliminated whole categories of injury long-recognized by Congress, but that do not involve easily measured harm, including violations of privacy rights.
The court also expressly confirmed that Congress has the power to define injuries and create causes of action that did not exist before. According to the review, “This measured approach means that injured consumers can sue when they have suffered, or are at risk of suffering, a harm tethered to real-world concerns.”
Courts have applied the Spokeo ruling in certain circumstances of a case when facing a decision. For instance, in Galaria v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, No. 15-3386, 2016 (6th Cir. Sept. 12, 2016), it was confirmed that plaintiffs have the ability to sue when their personal information was stolen by hackers during a computer network breach. Also, in In re: Nickelodeon Consumer Privacy Litigation, 827 F.3d 262 (3d Cir. 2016), it was discovered that plaintiffs had standing to claim that websites unlawfully collected personal information, which could be later misused.
Nevertheless, Diamand and Kaufman note that “common law analogues and statutory intent are key markers to identify which claims allege injury in fact.” According to Sen. Hiram Fong, R-Hawaii, “[T]he right of privacy, the right to be left alone, and the right against unreasonable searches and seizures — the right, that is, to be personally secure — are among the most highly valued rights of an American citizen. These guarantees have been a part of Anglo-Saxon law ever since the 15th century.” 114 Cong. Rec. S6194 (daily ed. May 23, 1968).”
The full article is available here for review (subscription).
About Nicholas Diamand
Nicholas Diamand is a partner in Lieff Cabraser’s New York office with a practice focused on securities and consumer fraud cases. He was actively involved in the firm’s representation of the California Board of Regents in successful securities fraud litigation against AIG. His consumer fraud and privacy case work includes digital privacy litigation against Facebook and LinkedIn, among others.
About Andrew Kaufman
Andrew Kaufman is an associate in Lieff Cabraser’s Nashville office. Andrew was the Executive Editor of the Harvard Law and Policy Review and is also the author of the articles “Lochner for the Executive Branch: The Torture Memo as Anticanon” and “American Foreign Policy Opinion in 2004: Exploring Underlying Beliefs.”