October 16, 2021

Justice Thomas joins liberal majority in class action lawsuit limitations dissent

Justice Clarence Thomas surprised Americans when he joined his liberal contemporaries in a minority ruling on a case involving credit reporting agency TransUnion who flagged more than 8,000 as suspected terrorists and drug traffickers, according to The Washington Examiner.

The verdict was handed down in the high-profile class-action suit on Friday where the court assessed a lower court ruling that TransUnion must pay $40 million in damages to the individuals involved in the suit. 

Thomas along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan pushed back against the majority of conservative justices, led by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which marked a rare occasion for the usually staunchly conservative Thomas.

While the nation’s high court did rule favorably for the plaintiffs it didn’t entirely agree with the ruling by the lower court because, as Kavanaugh pointed out in his majority opinion, most of the people involved in the suit had no standing. 

That distinction had the effect of significantly reducing the penalty on TransUnion, according to the Examiner’s report that sad the suit was focused on the terms of Fair Credit Reporting Act, and did not truly meet the criteria of a class-action lawsuit. 

Kavanaugh agreed with TransUnion’s argument that most of the people involved had failed to prove “concrete injury” since the company only revealed about 1,000 names, and those were of people whose names aligned with terrorists and traffickers. Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion that he agreed the other 7,000 had “No concrete harm, no standing.”

Thomas, however, took exception to the associate justice’s assessment, saying that Kavanaugh’s caveat was not applicable because the other 7,000 individuals’ rights had indeed been violated. 

“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.

The iconic conservative answered the rhetorical question saying, “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.”

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