Justice Thomas sides with liberals in case regarding ‘standing’ in class-action lawsuits

Typically, on ideologically split U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Justice Clarence Thomas sides with conservatives.

But according to the Washington Examiner, Thomas joined the three high court’s liberal justices in dissent over a ruling in the case TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, in which the credit reporting agency challenged the “standing” of some 8,000 plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed previously against the company. 

What happened?

Some time ago, TransUnion sent a notice to roughly 8,000 individuals informing them that they had been flagged as suspected terrorists or drug traffickers, all of whom later joined a class-action lawsuit against the company which eventually resulted in a lower court decision siding with the individuals who were flagged.

TransUnion was ordered to pay out some $40 million in damages as a result, but as is typical of high-profile, class-action lawsuits involving major companies, TransUnion appealed the lower court’s ruling and ended up in the Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 ruling favoring TransUnion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh didn’t reverse the lawsuit but significantly cut down the amount TransUnion was required to pay out after ruling that most of those involved in the class-action suit lacked standing to prove that they sustained “concrete injury” as a result of the notifications they were originally sent by the credit reporting agency.

In the majority opinion, Kavanaugh determined that roughly 7,000 of the 8,000 people involved in the lawsuit lacked the standing to claim “concrete injury,” marking a massive win for TransUnion and setting precedent for other companies who face similar situations.

However, the decision did not sit well with the court’s opposite side, and especially with Thomas, in fact, who made his feelings clear in a dissenting opinion.

Thomas sides with liberals

The conservative justice broke ranks and challenged Kavanaugh’s ruling, citing the U.S. Constitution as allowing individuals to file suit even when they’re unable to show “concrete” harm.

“That may be a pithy catchphrase, but it is worth pausing to ask why ‘concrete’ injury in fact should be the sole inquiry,” Thomas wrote, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

He went on to explain, in detail, why he and the liberal justices on the high court believe TransUnion harmed all of the plaintiffs involved in the class-action lawsuit.

“A person is harmed when he requests and is sent an incomplete credit report, or is sent a suspicious notice informing him that he may be a designated drug trafficker or terrorist, or is not sent anything informing him of how to remove this inaccurate red flag,” Thomas wrote.

Only time will tell how the SCOTUS ruling favoring TransUnion will affect future similar cases, and while there are already many critics expressing anger at the outcome, others are celebrating it as a win in the fight against what often feels like an overly litigious society.

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