Justice Clarence Thomas breaks with conservatives in high-profile Transunion case

In rare form, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently sided with the liberal side of the high court in a decision involving a class-action lawsuit filed against TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting agencies.

According to the Washington Examiner, over 8,000 people filed a class-action lawsuit against the credit agency after TransUnion flagged them as potential “drug traffickers” and “suspected terrorists.” A lower court decision ruled that TransUnion was to pay out $40 million in damages to the group, but on appeal, the case went to the Supreme Court to determine if “concrete standing” was needed by plaintiffs to show that they were caused actual harm. 

The case, known as TransUnion v. Ramirez, is significant in that it sets a precedent for the judiciary to decide who has standing and who doesn’t, instead of relying on laws passed by Congress and the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his decision that a vast majority of the people involved in the lawsuit against Transunion lacked “concrete standing” to claim that they were hurt by the credit agency’s actions, which in turn would substantially reduce the $40 million that the company was ordered to payout, as only roughly 1,000 plaintiffs had the ability to prove they have standing.

Justice Thomas joined the high court’s liberals in dissenting on the decision, arguing that the U.S. Constitution has long allowed people to sue for harm and damages without the requirement to show “concrete” standing.

“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.

“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,” the conservative justice added.

Not surprisingly, Transunion lawyers were thrilled with the high court’s decision this week, with Transunion attorney Stephen Newman explaining why the ruling sets an important precedent for all major businesses.

“This outcome will have broad implications for class certification practice nationwide. It also will improve American businesses’ ability to serve their customers and workers efficiently, with reduced litigation burden,” Newman said, according to Saltwire.