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Coleman v. Exxon Mobil Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

April 13, 2018

MICHAEL COLEMAN, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION, REEVES BOOMLAND, INC., and BI-STATE SOUTHERN OIL COMPANY Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         “Is receiving an overly revealing credit card receipt-unseen by others and unused by identity thieves-a sufficient injury to confer Article III standing?” Bassett v. ABM Parking Servs., Inc., 883 F.3d 776, 777 (9th Cir. 2018). Under the facts of this case, it is not.

         Plaintiff alleges defendants violated the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (“the Act”) by printing the first six digits of his credit card on the receipts they provided after he purchased gas. Defendants claim plaintiff does not have standing and have moved to dismiss (#16). Because plaintiff failed to allege a concrete injury, the motion will be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges he got gas at one of the defendants' locations several times during the summer of 2017. Each time, after processing plaintiff's credit card, defendants provided a printed receipt that listed the first six and last four digits of plaintiff's sixteen-digit credit card number. Plaintiff alleges defendants “willfully” violated the Act, which prohibits defendants from printing more than the last five digits of plaintiff's credit card number on any receipt provided at the point of sale.

         “On occasion, . . . [p]laintiff believes he has forgotten to pull his receipt out of the machine, leaving it hanging in public view.” (#1 at 8, ¶ 58.) “At other times, . . . [p]laintiff believes he has thrown his receipt in the trash next to the pump.” (#1 at 8, ¶ 59.) He does not allege anyone tried stealing his identity by using the information on his receipts. In fact, he does not allege anyone even saw the receipts, let alone the ten digits of his credit card number. Instead, plaintiff alleges the defendants caused him to “suffer a heightened risk of identity theft, and potentially exposed [his] private information to third parties who may have come into contact with those receipts.” (#1 at 11-12, ¶ 84) (emphases added). As such, he seeks statutory and punitive damages.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court must dismiss a complaint if it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006). At the motion-to-dismiss stage, the Court must “accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005)).

         III. Discussion

         The Act. Congress passed the Act, an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to curb identity theft by reducing the personal information printed on credit and debit card receipts. Fair & Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108- 159, 117 Stat. 1952 (Dec. 4, 2003) (codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1681x). The Act provides “no person that accepts credit cards or debit cards for the transaction of business shall print more than the last 5 digits of the card number or the expiration date upon any receipt provided to the cardholder at the point of the sale or transaction.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681c(g)(1). A plaintiff may recover actual damages resulting from a negligent violation, id. § 1681o(a), or actual, statutory, and punitive damages for a willful violation, id. § 1681n(a).

         After the Act's compliance deadline, consumers filed “hundreds of lawsuits” alleging merchants that failed to remove the expiration date (a requirement not at issue in this case) willfully violated the Act. Credit & Debit Card Receipt Clarification Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-241, § 2(a)(4), 122 Stat. 1565 (June 3, 2008) (codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1681n(d)). Yet none of these consumers alleged their identity had been harmed. Id. § 2(a)(5). Congress responded by amending the Act so that persons who only violated the Act by printing expiration dates could not be sued for a willful violation for roughly four years. See Id. § 3. In doing so, Congress stated the purpose of the amendment “is to ensure that consumers suffering from any actual harm to their credit or identity are protected while simultaneously limiting abusive lawsuits that do not protect consumers but only result in increased cost to business and potentially increased prices to consumers.” Id. § 2(b) (emphasis added).

         Accepting plaintiff's allegations as true, there is no doubt that defendants violated the statute. But that does not mean plaintiff automatically has standing to bring this claim. “Indeed, Congress does not have the final word on whether a plaintiff has alleged a sufficient injury for the purposes of standing[.]” Meyers v. Nicolet Rest. of De Pere, LLC, 843 F.3d 724, 727 (7th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 2267 (2017).

         Article III Standing.

Article III of the Constitution gives federal courts the power to decide actual cases and controversies only. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. In fact, “[n]o principle is more fundamental to the judiciary's proper role in our system of government than the constitutional limitation of federal-court jurisdiction to actual cases or controversies.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016), as revised (May 24, 2016) (alteration in original) (quoting Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 818 (1997)). Ruling without a case or controversy “create[s] the potential for abuse of the judicial process, distort[s] the role of the Judiciary in its relationship to the Executive and the Legislature[, ] and open[s] the ...


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