While Congress may elevate intangible injuries to allow standing to sue, it cannot, by granting a right to statutory damages, create Article III standing when the plaintiff has suffered no actual injury, as can be the case when the defendant violates a statute’s purely procedural requirements. To state an Art. III case or controversy and have standing to sue in federal court, the plaintiff must allege (1) he suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. To satisfy the injury in fact element, the plaintiff must show an injury that is both concrete and particularized. To be particularized, injury must affect the plaintiff in a personal and individual way. To be concrete, the injury must be real, not abstract, though it may be concrete without being tangible. Congress may identify and elevate intangible harms and articulate chains of causation to create cases or controversies where none existed before. However, that doesn’t mean that a case or controversy is established whenever Congress grants a right to sue for violation of federal law. Bare procedural violations, for example, may cause no actual harm and so cannot give rise to cases or controversies even when the statute grants a right to sue for statutory damages. The case is remanded for the Ninth Circuit to determine whether Robbins suffered any actual harm from the dissemination of an allegedly false consumer report regarding him allegedly in violation of various procedural requirements of the FCRA.
United States Supreme Court (Alito, J.; Thomas J., concurring; Ginsburg & Sotomayor, JJ., dissenting); May 16, 2016; 2016 WL 2842447