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Tarr v. Burger King Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division

January 5, 2018

ANDREW TARR, individually, and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,



         Andrew Tarr filed this putative class action against Burger King for alleged violations of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Burger King subsequently moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Burger King's motion to dismiss.

         I. Background

         The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act "prohibits merchants from 'print[ing] more than the last five digits of the [credit or debit] card number or the expiration date upon any receipt provided to the cardholder at the point of sale or transaction." 15 U.S.C. § l68lc(g)(1). According to Tarr, Burger King "systematically and willfully violated" the Act by printing the "first six and last four digits" of his-and other customers'-credit and debit card account numbers on transaction receipts. He contends that, under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540 (2016), his allegations establish a particularized and concrete injury in fact.

         Burger King filed a motion to dismiss, challenging the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction over this case. It points out that "Tarr does not claim his identity was stolen or that fraudulent purchases were made using his debit card, " adding that he fails to "identify anyone who viewed the discarded receipts." As such, Burger King argues that Tarr lacks standing because his claims under the Act "are based solely on statutory violations divorced from any concrete or actual harm"-i.e., that Tarr has failed to plead the requisite concrete injury in fact.

         II. Discussion

         A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         "To survive a motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must do more than merely state legal conclusions, " instead plaintiffs must "allege some specific factual basis for those conclusions or face dismissal of their claims." Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1263 (11th Cir. 2004). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the plaintiffs well-pleaded facts as true. See St. Joseph's Hosp., Inc. v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 795 F.2d 948, 953 (11th Cir. 1986). This tenet, however, does not apply to legal conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Moreover, "[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 1950. Those "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). In short, the complaint must not merely allege misconduct, but must demonstrate that the pleader is entitled to relief. See Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

         B. Article HI Standing

         Article III of the Constitution endows federal courts with the authority to decide actual "Cases" and "Controversies." U.S. Const. Art. Ill. § 2. "In the absence of standing, a court is not free to opine in an advisory capacity about the merits of a plaintiff s claims." Hollywood Mobile Estates Ltd. v. Seminole Tribe of Fla., 641 F.3d 1259, 1265 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing CAMP Legal Def. Fund, Inc. v. City of Atlanta, 451 F.3d 1257, 1269 (11th Cir. 2006)). In other words, the doctrine of standing "limits the category of litigants empowered to maintain a lawsuit in federal court to seek redress for a legal wrong." Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1547. It "serves to prevent the judicial process from being used to usurp the powers of the political branches . . . and confines the federal courts to a properly judicial role." Id. (citations and quotations omitted).

         To establish standing, "[t]he plaintiff must have (1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Id. (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). This case primarily concerns whether Tarr has demonstrated an injury in fact-i.e., '"an invasion of a legally protected interest' that is 'concrete and particularized' and 'actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.'" Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1548 (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560).

         In Spokeo, the Supreme Court recognized the two independent components of an injury in fact-concreteness and particularity-and held that courts must separately assess each component. See Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1555. According to the Court, an injury in fact is "particularized" if it "affect[s] the plaintiff in a personal and individual way." Id. (citation omitted). An injury in fact is concrete if it "exists"-i.e., it is "real, and not abstract." Id. ("A concrete injury must be "de facto''; that is, it must actually exist.") (citing Black's Law Dictionary 479 (9th ed. 2009)) (quotations omitted).

         More specifically, a plaintiff pleads a particularized injury by alleging facts establishing that a defendant "violated his statutory rights, not just the rights of other people, " and that this violation affected the plaintiffs individualized interests. Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1544 (emphasis in original). As the Court explained, "[f]or an injury to be 'particularized, ' it 'must affect the plaintiff in a personal and individual way.'" Id. at 1548 (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560).

         The Supreme Court in Spokeo also discussed whether-and when-a statutory violation may constitute a concrete injury in fact, explaining that the violation of a statutory right, in and of itself, does not create Article III standing to sue. See Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1549 ("Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation."). A plaintiff cannot allege "a bare procedural violation, divorced from any concrete harm, and satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement of Article III." Id. The Court provided two examples of "bare procedural violations" that would not authorize standing: (i) a consumer reporting agency's failure to notify a user of the agency's ...

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