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FMG Law Blog Line

Eleventh Circuit Applies Spokeo’s Stringent Article III Standing Requirements

Posted on: October 27th, 2016

By: Robyn Flegal

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court clarified the pleading requirements to establish standing in federal lawsuits arising out of alleged statutory violations. A detailed explanation of the Supreme Court’s Spokeo[1] opinion can be found on the FMGBlogLine. As we observed, “the specific line drawing as to what a plaintiff must allege to establish standing ultimately will be determined by the lower courts.” Recently, the Eleventh Circuit sharpened its pencil on this issue.

In Nicknaw v. CitiMortgage, Inc.,[2] the Eleventh Circuit considered whether Nicknaw had standing to bring suit in federal court. Nicknaw alleged that CitiMortgage violated a New York statute when it failed to timely record a certificate of discharge proving he satisfied his mortgage. Relying upon the Spokeo decision, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed Nicknaw’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction because he failed to allege a sufficient “injury in fact.” The Court explained that an injury in fact, which can include intangible harm, requires “an invasion of a legally protected interest that is concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent.”

Applying this standard, the Eleventh Circuit held that the intangible harm caused by CitiMortgate’s recording delay was insufficient to establish standing because Nicknaw failed to allege (1) that he lost money because of CitiMortgage’s failure to timely record, or (2) that he or anyone else was even aware that the certificate of discharge was not recorded during the relevant time. Furthermore, no material risk of harm existed, as Nicknaw filed his suit two years after CitiMortgage recorded the certificate. The Court noted that while Nicknaw failed to allege a concrete and particularized injury as required under Article III, his failure “does not mean that New York law does not create a right that, when violated, could form the basis of a cause of action in a court of New York.”

In conclusion, plaintiffs alleging a technical statutory violation now face a heightened standard to establish standing in federal court. Plaintiffs pursuing claims based upon violations of state statutes may be more inclined to pursue their claims in the state court system to avoid these stringent standing requirements of Article III.

[1] Spokeo v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016).

[2] Nicknaw v. CitiMortgage, Inc., No. 2:15-CV-14125-JEM,  — F.3d — (October 5, 2016).

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