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28 January 2011

District of Columbia High Court Restores Standing Requirements for Consumer Protection Lawsuits

In September 2009, a panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs could bring a claim under the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) regardless of whether they meet traditional standing requirements (such as alleging that they had personally been injured). That ruling threatened to invite a flood of abusive litigation, as Mayer Brown lawyers discussed in an article published soon after the decision.

On January 20, 2011, the en banc DC Court of Appeals reached a different conclusion, holding that plaintiffs suing under the CPPA must satisfy the standing requirements of Article III of the US Constitution. Grayson v. AT&T, __ A.3d __, 2011 WL 165843 (D.C. Jan. 20, 2011).

In Grayson, the plaintiffs argued that when the DC Council amended the CPPA in 2000, it deleted earlier language from the statute containing express standing requirements. But the court rejected that argument, explaining that the Council was required to speak more clearly before the court would conclude that the Council intended to overturn “long-enduring legal principles governing constitutional standing.” The court’s analysis on this point tracked some of the arguments made in an amicus brief filed by Mayer Brown lawyers.

The en banc court separately concluded that one of the plaintiffs, Alan Grayson, had standing to bring his claim because he was asserting a statutory right to the disclosure of information about the defendant telephone companies’ treatment of “unclaimed property” (which is how Grayson characterized unused balances on prepaid calling cards). Because Grayson could not state a claim under the CPPA on the merits, the court affirmed the dismissal of his lawsuit.

For inquiries related to this alert, please contact Archis A. Parasharami or Kevin Ranlett.

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