On October 18, 2019, a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Central District of California decertified a class of approximately 6.5 million Wal-Mart job applicants, ruling that the plaintiffs failed to satisfy Article III standing requirements under Spokeo v. Robins. The Supreme Court in Spokeo reiterated that a statutory violation by itself and without a concrete injury is insufficient to confer Article III standing.
In Pitre v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a class of plaintiffs alleged that Wal-Mart violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to provide job applicants with required and sufficient background check disclosure forms. The District Court initially certified the class, but changed its mind after the close of discovery at the summary judgment stage. In decertifying the class and following the dictates of Spokeo, the Court ruled that the “named plaintiffs have failed to identify an injury stemming from this statutory violation that can suffice to support Article III standing.” The plaintiffs failed to establish an injury beyond the mere statutory violation itself.
Although Wal-Mart requested summary judgment, the Court remanded the case to state court to address outstanding state law claims. Even though the case will continue, the decision is a victory nonetheless for Wal-Mart and corporate defendants. First, the Pitre decision re-emphasis that a plaintiff must demonstrate an actual, concrete injury. Simply violating a statute is not enough to confer standing. Second, this decision demonstrates that all hope is not lost if a court initially grants class certification as courts remain willing to decertify the class at a later stage.