January 19, 2021 Top Story

Privacy Law Provides Standing for Nonresident Plaintiffs

State law defines statutory harm sufficient for Article III standing

By R'iele J. Sims

Out-of-state residents may sue under a Michigan privacy law, according to one district court decision. In Lin v. Crain Communications Inc., the court held that the statute applies to nonresidents and concluded that the plaintiff had alleged an injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing. Practitioners may want to reconsider the wisdom of challenging a plaintiff’s Article III standing in similar complaints for statutory damages under state privacy protection laws, suggest ABA Section of Litigation leaders.

The plaintiff sued the multi-industry conglomerate that published the magazine to which he subscribed, claiming they sold his personal information

The plaintiff sued the multi-industry conglomerate that published the magazine to which he subscribed, claiming they sold his personal information

iStockphoto by Getty Images

Publisher’s Sale of Personal Information Leads to Privacy Suit

The plaintiff, Gary Lin, a Virginia resident, filed a putative class action lawsuit against Crain Communications Inc., a multi-industry publishing conglomerate headquartered in Michigan. The plaintiff alleged that he subscribed to Crain’s Autoweek magazine and that the publisher violated the Michigan Personal Privacy Protection Act (PPPA) by selling his personal reading information (PRI) to third parties without his consent. The complaint also alleged that the publisher rented customer lists containing subscribers’ personal information, including “subscriber’s full name, home address, and title of Crain publication to which he or she subscribes” to other companies. According to the plaintiff, the publisher never required subscribers to “read or agree to any terms of service, privacy policy, or information-sharing policy, and fail[ed] to obtain any consent from—or provide effective notice to—its subscribers before disclosing their PRI.”

The publisher moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the plaintiff lacked statutory standing because the PPPA statute does not apply to out-of-state residents. It also argued that the plaintiff had failed to allege an injury sufficient to confer Article III standing.

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