Recently, a jury in the U.S. District Court for Oregon awarded a plaintiff $18.58 million in compensatory and punitive damages for Equifax’s violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The plaintiff was a co-signor to a loan that was denied by a bank due to the plaintiff’s credit report, which was a “mixed file” that erroneously represented the credit histories of two individuals. For that reason, the credit report contained an incorrect social security number and multiple delinquencies for debts that the plaintiff never incurred.
The plaintiff contacted Equifax to correct her credit report on eight different occasions over a two-year period, but Equifax did not resolve the errors. The jury found that Equifax acted negligently and willfully in violating the FCRA’s error dispute and correction procedures. Equifax currently is weighing whether to appeal the jury’s verdict.
The award highlights the significant amount of risk that companies face in working with consumer credit reports. Companies that are subject to requirements in the FCRA should have comprehensive compliance programs that include mechanisms for resolving customer disputes in a satisfactory manner.