(CN) - An unemployed man can sue the website Spokeo.com for inaccurately describing him as wealthy and well educated, the 9th Cicuit ruled Tuesday.
Virginia resident Thomas Robins claims that his job search has been hampered by a description of him as a high earner with a graduate degree on Spokeo, a search engine that aggregates information about individuals.
Alleging that the misinformed profile violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Robins proposed a 2010 class action against Spokeo in Los Angeles.
U.S. District Judge Otis Wright dismissed Robins's first complaint for lack of standing, and eventually did the same with an amended complaint. The judge found that Robins had failed to show that he had suffered any actual harm.
A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court reversed Tuesday.
At this early stage of the case, Robins can gain standing by alleging a violation of the FCRA "without showing actual harm," according to the ruling.
"The statutory cause of action does not require a showing of actual harm when a plaintiff sues for willful violations," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote for the panel.
"When, as here, the statutory cause of action does not require proof of actual damages, a plaintiff can suffer a violation of the statutory right without suffering actual damages," he added.
The panel remanded the case to Los Angeles without deciding whether "harm to ... employment prospects or related anxiety could be sufficient injuries in fact," or whether "Spokeo qualifies as a consumer reporting agency or whether Spokeo actually violated the FCR."
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