Issues: ,

Intro

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321 .

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

SPOKEO, INC. v. ROBINS

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 13–1339. Argued November 2, 2015—Decided May 16, 2016

Syllabus

The Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 (FCRA) requires consumer reporting agencies to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of” consumer reports, 15 U. S. C. §1681e(b), and imposes liability on “[a]ny person who willfully fails to comply with any requirement [of the Act] with respect to any” individual, §1681n(a).

Petitioner Spokeo, Inc., an alleged consumer reporting agency, operates a “people search engine,” which searches a wide spectrum of databases to gather and provide personal information about individuals to a variety of users, including employers wanting to evaluate prospective employees. After respondent Thomas Robins discovered that his Spokeo-generated profile contained inaccurate information, he filed a federal class-action complaint against Spokeo, alleging that the company willfully failed to comply with the FCRA’s requirements.

The District Court dismissed Robins’ complaint, holding that he had not properly pleaded injury in fact as required by Article III. The Ninth Circuit reversed. Based on Robins’ allegation that “Spokeo violated his statutory rights” and the fact that Robins’ “personal interests in the handling of his credit information are individualized,” the court held that Robins had adequately alleged an injury in fact.

Held: Because the Ninth Circuit failed to consider both aspects of the injury-in-fact requirement, its Article III standing analysis was incomplete. Pp. 5–11.

(a) A plaintiff invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing the “irreducible constitutional minimum” of standing by demonstrating (1) an injury in fact, (2) fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U. S. 555 –561. Pp. 5–6.

(b) As relevant here, the injury-in-fact requirement requires a plaintiff to show that he or she suffered “an invasion of a legally protected interest” that is “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” Lujan, supra, at 560. Pp. 7–11.

(1) The Ninth Circuit’s injury-in-fact analysis elided the independent “concreteness” requirement. Both observations it made concerned only “particularization,” i.e., the requirement that an injury “affect the plaintiff in a personal and individual way,” Lujan, supra, at 560, n. 1, but an injury in fact must be both concrete and particularized, see, e.g., Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 573 U. S. ___, ___. Concreteness is quite different from particularization and requires an injury to be “de facto,” that is, to actually exist. Pp. 7–8.

(2) The Ninth Circuit also failed to address whether the alleged procedural violations entail a degree of risk sufficient to meet the concreteness requirement. A “concrete” injury need not be a “tangible” injury. See, e.g., Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U. S. 460 . To determine whether an intangible harm constitutes injury in fact, both history and the judgment of Congress are instructive. Congress is well positioned to identify intangible harms that meet minimum Article III requirements, but a plaintiff does not automatically satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement whenever a statute grants a right and purports to authorize a suit to vindicate it. Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation. This does not mean, however, that the risk of real harm cannot satisfy that requirement. See, e.g., Clapper v. Amnesty Int’l USA, 568 U. S. ____. The violation of a procedural right granted by statute can be sufficient in some circumstances to constitute injury in fact; in such a case, a plaintiff need not allege any additional harm beyond the one identified by Congress, see Federal Election Comm’n v. Akins, 524 U. S. 11 –25. This Court takes no position on the correctness of the Ninth Circuit’s ultimate conclusion, but these general principles demonstrate two things: that Congress plainly sought to curb the dissemination of false information by adopting procedures designed to decrease that risk and that Robins cannot satisfy the demands of Article III by alleging a bare procedural violation. Pp. 8–11.

742 F. 3d 409, vacated and remanded.

Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a concurring opinion. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Sotomayor, J., joined.