After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in
Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, consumers have been required to show proof of a “concrete and particularized
injury” before bringing a claim under various state and federal
laws. People who have been harmed by unfair debt collections practices
or unfair credit reporting practices can no longer simply show that a
company violated a statute in order to win damages in a case. But what
exactly is a concrete and particularized injury, and how do you know if
you have one?
Spokeo decision, Justice Samuel Alito explained that in order to have standing
to file a lawsuit, a plaintiff must show a concrete and particularized
injury. For an injury to be concrete, it must be real rather than abstract.
For an injury to be particularized, it must have affected the plaintiff
in a personal and individual way.
A concrete injury can be either tangible or intangible, but it must have
an actual effect. For example, suppose a debt collection company sues
the wrong woman for a debt. The woman would have tangible harm because
she would have to spend time and money hiring an attorney and fighting
the case. Alternatively, suppose the credit bureaus report an error on
a man’s credit report that lowers his credit score by 300 points.
As a result, he is turned down for a new credit card and an auto loan.
Even though the man might not have lost any money as a result of the error,
he has still suffered concrete and particularized harm under the statute.
Spokeo, the defendant ran a people search website on the internet. If you have
ever Googled a person’s name, you have likely run across this type
of site before. The webpage under the plaintiff’s name contained
inaccurate information regarding the plaintiff’s age, income, and
marital status. The plaintiff alleged that the inaccurate information
violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The FCRA is meant to prevent the dissemination of inaccurate information
which could affect a person’s credit. The plaintiff argued that
when enacting the law, Congress intended to allow consumers to sue companies
who violate the statute even without a concrete injury. However, the Supreme
Court disagreed, and found that Article III of the U.S. Constitution required
plaintiffs to plead a concrete and particularized injury rather than a
bare violation of a statute. Justice Alito compared the violation to disseminating
the wrong zip code—without more, the Constitution will not allow
While the case may seem to shift the burden of proof onto consumers, courts
around the country have been finding concrete and particularized injuries
outside of just financial losses. Consumers who are able to show that
some right has been violated, whether it was by harassing phone calls,
incorrectly reported credit information, or other statutory violations,
will still be able to have their day in court.
If have been plagued by debt collector harassment, inaccurate collection
activities, or are unsure if you have a case, contact the South Florida
debt defense attorneys at Loan Lawyers today. We offer free consultations
to all of our clients, and can help you fight back against unscrupulous
debt collectors in court. To schedule your consultation, contact our office
today by calling (888) FIGHT-13 (344-4813).