Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami

Plaintiff city sufficiently alleged standing to sue by averring that defendant banks’ lending to African-Americans and Latinos on less favorable terms than white Anglos led to a tide of foreclosures in minority neighborhoods, lowering property values and thus the city’s tax revenues while also requiring greater expenditures by the city to police and maintain the gutted neighborhoods; but further consideration was needed in order to determine whether city’s factual allegations sufficiently stated the element of proximate causation of its asserted losses.

The Fair Housing Act (42 USC 3613) grants standing to any person aggrieved by the defendant’s discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, etc., in housing or financing of housing.  The “person aggrieved” formula indicates that Congress intended to allow broad standing—indeed, to the limits of Article III.  Here, the plaintiff city sufficiently alleged standing by averring that defendant banks’ lending to African-Americans and Latinos on less favorable terms than white Anglos led to a tide of foreclosures in minority neighborhoods, lowering property values and thus the city’s tax revenues while also requiring greater expenditures by the city to police and maintain the gutted neighborhoods.  These alleged pecuniary losses were sufficient to meet Article III and prudential standing standards and so also grant the city statutory standing to sue.  However, to recover damages under a statutory claim, a plaintiff must prove its loss is proximately caused by the statutory violation, unless the statute shows Congress intended a different result.  Here, the 11th Circuit affirmed holding that merely showing the harm was foreseeable sufficed.  Not so.  Proximate cause analysis requires a consideration of whether the harm is closely enough connected to the conduct the statute forbids—generally, a proximate cause does not go beyond the first step of loss caused by the statutory violation.  This case is remanded for the 11th Circuit to determine whether the city’s allegations show proper proximate causation of their asserted losses.

United States Supreme Court (Breyer, J.; Thomas, Kennedy, & Alito, JJ., concurring in part & dissenting in part); May 1, 2017; 2017 WL 1540509

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