A Broward County man who bought $19 worth of chocolate treats in 2015 left Aventura Mall with a bitter taste in his mouth that’s led to years of back-and-forth in a class action lawsuit over the privacy of information on his receipt.
The Florida dispute has tested the limits of consumer rights and might ultimately be destined for the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit had already affirmed Dr. David S. Muransky’s $6.3 million class action settlement against New Jersey company Godiva Chocolatier Inc. for allegedly printing more than five digits of his credit card on a receipt — in violation of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, or FACTA. But six months on, the court put forward a fresh opinion, addressing conflicting rulings and dismissing objections from two class members.
Muransky’s class action alleged that by printing the first six and last four numbers of his card on a receipt, Godiva had elevated his risk of identity theft. The chocolatier pushed back, arguing Muransky didn’t show it had willfully violated FACTA, and moved to dismiss. But the court disagreed.
After mediation Godiva agreed to settle for $6.3 million. More than 47,000 class members made a claim, and each would receive about $235, according to Monday’s opinion.
But some class members weren’t happy. James Price and Eric Isaacson challenged the settlement, which paid out $2.1 million in legal fees and a $10,000 incentive award for the lead plaintiff. They argued that because Muransky’s identity wasn’t actually stolen, he’d suffered no harm and had no standing.
Class member Isaacson’s Tampa lawyer, John W. Davis, said his client thinks the settlement is “just wrong,” as it bars the claims of other class members whose identities may actually be stolen.
“[Isaacson] believes that a class representative should not be able to assert, and then settle and bar other people’s claims for serious injuries that he never suffered himself, and that he faced no real risk of suffering,” Davis said.
In affirming the settlement, the 11th Circuit analyzed Spokeo v. Robins, which says “concrete injury” is needed to show standing in a case such as this one. The court found Muransky’s allegation of a FACTA violation alone counted as concrete injury, along with the “additional burden” of having to keep the receipt safely in his wallet.
This time, the 11th Circuit separated itself from conflicting opinions, including a Third Circuit case Kamal v. J. Crew Group, another proposed class action by a shopper which found that too many credit card numbers on a receipt didn’t constitute standing.
Davis suspects at least one aspect of the case is ripe for Supreme Court review, as the opinion “solidifies a split” with the Third Circuit.
“While the 11th Circuit endeavored to distinguish its holding in Muransky from similar contrary opinions in sister circuits, we believe the Muransky opinion also presents a departure from precedent established in the Second, Seventh, and Ninth circuits,” Davis said.
Muransky’s lawyers, Scott David Owens and Bret Lusskin Jr., declined to comment. Godiva’s lawyers, Brian Melendez, Charles Flick and Shawn Libman, did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
Read the full court opinion: