Carlson Lynch attorneys Jamisen Etzel and Kelly Iverson won a significant consumer rights ruling earlier this year from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The appeals court held in a published decision that the temporary loss of money is a sufficient “injury-in-fact” under Article III of the Constitution to confer standing on a consumer to file a federal lawsuit.

In the case, called Van v. LLR, Inc., Carlson Lynch and its client brought suit against the clothing company LuLaRoe, alleging it had improperly overcharged Ms. Van and a class of similarly situated Alaska residents by including a “tax” on its invoices, where the purchases should have been tax free. After being sued by Carlson Lynch and certain of its clients, but before Ms. Van’s suit was filed, LuLaRoe began refunding the improper charges directly to customer credit card accounts. Those refunds, however, did not credit its customers for all of their damages, nor did it pay compensation for the customers’ lost time value of their money.

The federal district court in Alaska, where Van’s suit was filed, dismissed the case based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction after finding that the consumers’ lost time value of money was “too little” to be a constitutionally recognizable harm conferring standing to sue. Carlson Lynch appealed that decision, arguing that there is no minimum monetary loss threshold required to obtain standing, and that federal courts traditionally recognize invasions of a person’s possessory interests and the lost time value of money as concrete injuries under the Constitution.

The Ninth Circuit held oral argument on June 3, 2020, and Jamisen Etzel argued on behalf of Ms. Van. The appellate panel agreed with Carlson Lynch’s position, and on June 24, 2020 reversed the lower court, finding that “[f]or standing purposes, a loss of even a small amount of money is ordinarily an ‘injury,’” and that “the temporary loss of use of one’s money constitutes an injury in fact for purposes of Article III.”

The decision is an important one for consumers because it confirms that they may go to court and obtain interest or other compensation when their money has been improperly held by others for significant periods of time.

You can read the full opinion at this link.  The judges of the Ninth Circuit panel were Morgan Christen, Paul J. Watford, and Bridget S. Bade. Jamisen Etzel led the appellate briefing and oral argument. Kelly Iverson assisted in the appeal and serves as lead counsel in Carlson Lynch’s cases against LuLaRoe.