Spokeo Redux: The 2d Circuit had it right 20 years ago

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May 18, 2015

This morning, we were cleaning out some old, really old, desk files. If you look closely at the attached picture, you can even see some onion skin, legal-sized paper among the debris. In the files was a copy of the Second Circuit’s decision in Casella v. Equifax, 56 F.3d 469 (2d Cir. 1995), which rang a bell.

In Casella, the plaintiff sued Equifax and TransUnion, alleging that the defendant’s files on him contained inaccurate information, specifically, that he owed $4,350 in delinquent child support. However, like the plaintiff in Spokeo, Mr. Casella “presented no evidence that during the period in which Equifax and TransUnion carried the inaccurate [information], either of them provided [his] credit report to any third party.” 56 F.3d at 475. In short, the plaintiff didn’t prove that there was an inquiry on his file.

Under the circumstances, the Second Circuit made quick work of the plaintiff’s claims. “Casella’s argument boils down to the bare contention that he is entitled to damages for pain and suffering simply because he knew of an inaccurate and potentially damaging item in his credit report. We are unaware of any case extending FCRA damages that far … and we decline to reach that result here.” (citations omitted.)

The plaintiff’s claim in Spokeo should suffer the same fate, without the need to address the issue of statutory damages.