Eleventh Circuit Points to U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling on Standing

Eleventh Circuit Points to U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling on Standing

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a plaintiff seeking to bring a lawsuit based solely upon an alleged statutory violation must allege concrete harm in order to establish standing. Pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Spokeo v. Robins on the issue, the three-judge panel’s opinion on Nicklaw v. CitiMortgage was penned by Circuit Judge William Pryor.


The Case and Opinion

In Nicklaw, New York law mandated that CitiMortgage file a certificate of discharge within 30 days with the county clerk in order to record that the plaintiff had satisfied his mortgage. CitiMortgage failed to do so and, instead, recorded the satisfaction of mortgage more than 90 days after the date of satisfaction. Plaintiff Roger Nicklaw then filed a putative class action lawsuit against the bank alleging CitiMortgage violated New York law. The district court dismissed the case. The appellate court affirmed.

Pryor noted absent an alleged injury, Nicklaw could not make out a case or controversy as required under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. An injury in fact occurs if the plaintiff suffered an invasion of a legally protected interest. This interest must be “concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent.” Specifically, a concrete injury must actually exist – referred to as “de facto” in the legal field.

The U.S. Supreme Court explained in Spokeo that for an injury to be particularized it must affect the plaintiff in a way that is both personal and individual. Additionally, the injury-in-fact must be concrete – in other words real and not abstract, but not necessarily tangible.

Nicklaw did not allege harm nor a material risk of harm that could be remedied, Pryor wrote for the appeals court. Nicklaw’s complaint did not allege money was lost as a result of CitiMortgage’s failure to file a timely certificate. Neither did it allege his credit suffered nor that anyone else was aware that the certificate of discharge was not filed in time. Of note, Nicklaw did not file the action until more than two years after the satisfaction of mortgage was recorded.

The Eleventh Circuit’s opinion noted that while Nicklaw’s suit did not allege a sufficient injury-in-fact under Article II this did not mean that New York law does not create a right that, when violated, could be sufficient basis for a lawsuit in a New York court.


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