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Courts

Supreme Court declines to revisit question of lawsuit standing without concrete harm

The Supreme Court declined Monday to rehear a case challenging whether laws passed by Congress allow for lawsuits over violations of statutes such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act if there is not "real and material" harm.

On May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court by a 6-2 decision in Spokeo Inc. vs. Robins et al. vacated a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning a lower court ruling dismissing the class-action case on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to show concrete harm.

The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the 9th Circuit in San Francisco to determine whether the alleged harms met the concreteness standard of Article III of the Constitution.

On Aug. 15, a three-judge 9th Circuit panel again reversed the lower court dismissal, saying that plaintiff Thomas Robins had standing to pursue his claims against Spokeo for inaccurate information. In cases where there is an alleged intangible harm, the court said, there are two questions for determining standing: if the allegedly violated provisions were established to protect concrete interests, not just procedural rights, and, if the procedural violations have a material risk of harm to such interests.

In one of 14 amicus briefs filed to the Supreme Court in the Spokeo case in 2016, the Pension Rights Center argued that losing constitutional standing could also cost pension plan participants' rights to sue under ERISA.