On July 25, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed a state trial court’s dismissal of a putative Fair Credit Reporting Act class action against a large retailer based on standing issues. Most notably, the court did so in reliance on Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (May 16, 2016), and Article III standing rules, holding that Missouri law requires that a plaintiff have suffered a concrete injury-in-fact in the same way Article III does.
The plaintiffs in the case, Joshua Corozzo and Arthor Ruff, filed a putative class action in the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri, accusing the defendant employer of FCRA violations. Corozzo and Ruff alleged they applied to work for the defendant and were provided a seven-page background check disclosure and authorization form. They alleged the disclosure form contained extraneous information and did not provide them (or proposed class members) “a clear and conspicuous disclosure in writing in a document that consisted solely of the disclosure” as required by the FCRA.
The defendant moved to dismiss and the trial court granted the motion, finding Corozzo and Ruff had alleged only a “bare procedural violation” of the FCRA and did not assert any concrete injury sufficient to make their claims justiciable under Missouri law. Corozzo and Ruff appealed and the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed.
The Court of Appeals noted Missouri’s “justiciability” requirement, which itself encompasses the idea of standing. In evaluating standing, the Court looked to the Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo v. Robins, which defined the contours of FCRA standing for federal court Article III purposes. The court expressly rejected Corozzo and Ruff’s argument that Spokeo, being a federal case, was inapplicable to a Missouri state court action, holding that Article III and Missouri’s standing rules are largely coextensive.
Relying on Spokeo and similar guidance from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Missouri appellate court concluded Corozzo and Ruff had not pleaded actually injury. They noted the claim was simply that the format of the disclosure failed to comply with the FCRA’s requirements, but there was no allegation Corozzo and Ruff either did not receive the disclosure or did not authorize the defendant to procure a consumer report. Without any further allegations, the court held that the claim could not proceed and did not satisfy the Missouri standing requirement.
The Missouri Court of Appeals’ decision is important because it short circuits, at least in Missouri, attempts to rely on perceived lenient state court standing rules to avoid the holding of Spokeo.