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Beck v. McDonald - 848 F.3d 262 (4th Cir. 2017)


A defendant may challenge subject-matter jurisdiction in one of two ways: facially or factually. In a facial challenge, the defendant contends that a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based. Accordingly, the plaintiff is "afforded the same procedural protection as she would receive under a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) consideration, wherein the facts alleged in the complaint are taken as true, and the defendant's challenge must be denied if the complaint alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter jurisdiction.


Plaintiff Becks filed suit on behalf of a putative class of the approximately 7,400 patients whose information was stored on the missing laptop. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief and monetary damages under the Privacy Act, alleging that the defendants’ failures and violations of the Privacy Act caused Plaintiffs embarrassment, inconvenience, unfairness, mental distress, and the threat of current and future substantial harm from identity theft and other misuse of their Personal Information. The district court ruled in favor of the defendants and plaintiffs appealed.


Did the district court properly dismiss the plaintiffs’ class action for lack of standing under the Privacy Act?




The court held that the action was properly dismissed for lack of standing under the Privacy Act  from the alleged harm from the increased risk of future identity theft and the cost of measures to protect against it. The court explained that in particular, the veterans failed to show that any threatened harm of future identity theft was certainly impending, particularly as there was no showing that any of their personal information had been misused. The veterans failed to show a substantial risk that harm would occur that would prompt a party to reasonably incur costs to mitigate or avoid that harm.

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