Oregon woman wins $18.6 million verdict in lawsuit against Equifax over credit report errors

by Jay Pate

An Oregon federal district court jury has found that Equifax must pay Julie Miller $18.4 million in punitive damages and $180,000 in compensatory damages, for “willfully” failing to comply with requirements under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

In 2009, Miller became concerned when she was denied credit from a bank based on her Equifax credit report. Equifax sent Miller a copy of her credit report, and she immediately found the problem. According to the complaint filed by Miller, the credit report provided by Equifax contained false identification information, an incorrect Social Security number, a false birthday and false derogatory collection accounts attributed to her.

Then, on nine separate occasions between January 2010 and September 2011, Miller disputed the incorrect information in Equifax’s January 18, 2010, credit report. In response, Equifax continued to repeatedly request additional identifying information, and on each occasion, Miller provided the requested information, with no results. At one point, Equifax apparently told Miller that her account had accidentally been combined with another person’s account.

Unable to get Equifax to resolve the problem, Miller filed a federal suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act in October 2011. She sought damages for injury to her reputation, a breach of her privacy and the lost opportunity to seek credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information. Consumers can invoke their rights under the FCRA to review and correct their credit reports. A large portion of consumer credit reports contain errors. One study, released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in June 2004, found that 79% of the consumer credit reports surveyed contained some kind of error or mistake.

If a consumer can show that a company’s failure to comply with the law was “willful,” the consumer may recover the greater of either actual damages or a statutory minimum of $100 to maximum of $1000, plus possible punitive damages, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. The recovery for a negligent violation is for the consumer’s actual damages plus attorney’s fees. A consumer may file a suit in state or federal court to enforce the act. A lawsuit must be filed within two years from discovery of the violation or five years from the date of the violation, whichever is earlier.

If you feel you have been the victim of a credit reporting agency’s willful failure to comply with the law, you need to speak to a lawyer about your potential legal rights. You need an experienced and knowledgeable law firm that can guide you through the legal process and obtain maximum compensation on your behalf.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson approaches every case with the assumption it will be tried to a jury. Our attention to detail ensures that our clients achieve maximum results for their claim.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Two of our partners, Michael Heygood and Jim Orr are Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and all of our partners are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. They have all been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*

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Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2013.