June 25, 2021
Decided June 25, 2021
TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, No. 20-297
Today, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that every member of a class certified under Rule 23 must establish Article III standing in order to be awarded individual damages.
In February 2011, Sergio Ramirez was unable to purchase a car after a TransUnion credit report incorrectly flagged him as a “Specially Designated National” (“SDN”) who is prohibited from transacting business in the United States for national security reasons. When Ramirez requested a copy of his credit report, TransUnion mailed him a report that redacted the SDN alert and a separate letter notifying him of the alert but not how to correct inaccurate information.
Ramirez filed a putative class action against TransUnion alleging violations of the Fair Credit Report Act (“FCRA”) for failing to ensure the accuracy of the SDN alerts, to disclose the entire credit report to class members, and to include a summary of rights in the mailed letters. A jury found in favor of the class on all three claims and awarded $8 million in statutory damages and $52 million in punitive damages.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s certification of the class. Although most of the absent class members did not suffer injury from having their credit reports disclosed to third parties, the court concluded that all class members had the requisite Article III standing to recover damages because of the risk of harm to their privacy, reputational, and informational interests protected by the FCRA. The court affirmed the jury’s award of statutory damages but vacated the punitive damages award.
Whether all class members must have Article III standing to recover individual damages in federal court.
Yes. Every member of a class action must satisfy Article III standing requirements in order to recover individual damages, and proof of a statutory violation without a showing of concrete harm is insufficient to satisfy Article III.
“Every class member must have Article III standing in order to recover individual damages. ‘Article III does not give federal courts the power to order relief to any uninjured plaintiff, class action or not.’”
Justice Kavanaugh, writing for the Court
What It Means:
The Court’s opinion is available here.
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