ND Cal. Refuses to Decertify Based on Spokeo, Supposed Over-Breadth of Class


Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler recently examined the Supreme Court’s Spokeo decision in the context of a claim brought under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  The decision also provides new clarity on when over-breadth is a deal-breaker for class definitions.  The case is Patel v. Trans Union, LLC, No. 14-CV-00522, 2016 WL 6143191 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 21, 2016).

In Patel, the plaintiff alleges defendants disseminated a consumer-information report that wrongly described him as a terrorist and as having a criminal record. Plaintiff further alleged that when he asked defendants for their file on him, they failed to send him his complete file.

The court had previously certified classes; defendants sought decertification under Spokeo, arguing plaintiff had not suffered “concrete” harm.  Judge Beeler disagreed as to both aspects of the plaintiff’s case.

First, regarding the inaccurate information, the court reasoned:

The court sees little difficulty in concluding that the alleged inaccuracies — being wrongly branded a potential terrorist, or wrongly ascribed a criminal record — are themselves concrete harms. This is fully in line with Spokeo’s express analysis. There, in describing cases in which the violation of a statutory right “can be sufficient…to constitute injury in fact,” the Court analogized to torts for which the law has “long permitted recovery” — picking out, specifically, the torts of “libel” and “slander per se.”
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