Equifax Loses Court Judgment Numbering $18.6 Million Dollars

Equifax loses court judgment numbering $18.6 million dollars

Cover of Runaway Jury (Widescreen Edition)

Equifax Loses Court Judgment Numbering $18.6 Million Dollars

Equifax loses Court judgment numbering $18.6 Million Dollars awarded by a Federal Court Jury in Oregon.  Evidence showed that plaintiff Julie Miller spent 2 years trying unsuccessfully to get Equifax to fix mistakes on her credit report. Ms Miller first realized that something was amiss in 2009 when she was denied credit by Huybbard Bank based on the Equifax report.  In 2010 she was denied credit by Key Bank for the same reason.  Equifax told Ms Miller that her data had been “mixed” with another person’s and she would need to dispute the false information directly with the creditors. Testimony showed 8 contacts between her and the credit reporting giant between 2009 and 2011.  Her complaints included unsuccessful attempts to correct erroneous accounts, collection attempts, wrong social security numbers and an incorrect birthday.

$180,000.00 Compensatory Damages, $18.4 Million Dollars Punitive Damages

Evidence proved to the jury’s satisfaction that the plaintiff had suffered damages to her reputation, a breach of her privacy and lost opportunities to seek credit.  The jury’s decision was obviously heavily swayed by the fact that Ms. Miller was unable to get credit on her own to help her disabled brother. She was also unable to help her husband who needed a shop added onto their home. One of Ms. Miller’s attorneys, Justin Baxter, thinks the jury was impressed that it was only after she did on her own what she was supposed to do that she sought help from the Court.  I’m sure it didn’t help Equifax’s case that the complaint was scanned in house and sent for processing to a subcontractor in the Philippines.

Equifax has vowed to appeal.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently did a strictly controlled  survey of 1001 random credit reports.  The survey found that 21 per cent of credit reports contained errors and that 5 per cent of credit reports had errors serious enough that they would likely lead to a denial of credit or unfavorable terms on whatever credit the applicant was able to get.

Legal Reality Check on Equifax Loses Court Judgment Numbering $18.6 Million Dollars

As a former trial lawyer I feel compelled to observe that Federal Courts are not in the habit of upholding punitive damage awards that bring a multiple of 100X the compensatory damages.  This case will have an epilogue. I’m sure that punitive damages figure will be brought down to earth even if the jury’s award withstands appeal on whatever other grounds may exist.  I’ll be watching for that epilogue.  At that time I will supplement this essay with an immediate update. Maybe the parties will surprise everyone with a reasonable compromise settlement.

Runaway Jury Teaches an Important Lesson

The important lesson illustrated here is that the jury found Equifax’s course of action and inaction regarding this matter to be truly outrageous. The huge jury verdict is unprecedented in a lawsuit by a consumer against a credit reporting agency. Whether or not this verdict results in better treatment by Equifax towards future consumers is another matter.  Equifax loses court judgment numbering $18.6 Million Dollars should be a headline that has enough shock value to change the corporate culture at Equifax.  A more consumer friendly atmosphere would seem to be in their best interest.

Update!!!  February 3, 2014:  Judge reduces award to $1.62 Million Dollars

Following CFPB Appeal procedures has eliminated a lot of these abuses.  Careful documentation each step of the way is essential.  My experience since writing this article is that the CFPB has grown stronger.  Equifax and the otherr Credit Reporting Agencies are much more inclined to be reasonable under Federal supervision than they were back in what must now seem to them like the “good old days.”

 

 

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After practicing law for 37 years Edward F. St. Onge, Sr. now devotes all his time to helping consumers achieve a high credit score with amazing speed. Learn the counter-intuitive secrets to credit scoring through his down to earth instructions backed by extensive knowledge of the laws and trends. All of the latest tricks and techniques that they don't want you to know now at your disposal. At last a level playing field for the consumer!

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