Fair Credit Reporting Act - negligent non-compliance
Perez v. Trans Union, LLC, et al. - ED Pa. - November 2007
Plaintiff sued for an alleged violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 USC 1681e(b), when the defendant credit reporting agency (CRA) mistakenly reported to a car dealership that plaintiff had a good credit history but was deceased and thus had no credit score. After this same thing happened several times, matters finally got sorted out, but plaintiff claimed that he had paid more for credit because of the mistakes, which he said were caused by defendant's failure to "follow reasonable procedure to assure maximum possible accuracy of information...." as required by sec. 1681e(b).
Defendant moved for summary judgment, which in a negligent noncompliance case can only be granted in this circuit when the "evidence demonstrates as a matter of law that the procedures it [defendant] followed were reasonable." Philbin v. Trans Union Corp., 101 F3d 957, 965 (3d Cir. 1996). Judging reasonableness "involves weighing the potential harm from inaccuracy against the burden of safeguarding against such inaccuracy." Id at 963. By contrast, "[o]ther courts have concluded flatly that 'the question, of whether a credit reporting agency followed reasonable procedures is reserved for the jury.'" (citing cases)
The defendant here admitted reiterating inaccurate information, which it did not independently verify. The questions is whether it "ought to have appreciated, under the circumstances presented, that there was a material inaccuracy such that a duty arose upon it to do something to correct it or not make a report." (emphasis in original).
The court held that there had no willful noncompliance, which it said "requires more than mere knowledge." There was no evidence to show that the CRA was "consciously aware that Plaintiff contested the accuracy of the report and then proceeded to report the inaccuracy anyway." (emphasis in original)* There was no "deliberate intention to violate Plaintiff's personal rights."
The court also rejected the negligent noncompliance claim, which consists of four elements
- the inclusion of inaccurate information in a credit report
- the inaccuracy was due to a failure to follow reasonable procedures
- the consumer suffered injury
- the injury was caused by the inclusion of the inaccurate entry.
The court granted summary to defendant based on the plaintiff's "lack of rebuttal evidence" to counter that in the summary judgment record, which showed that the banks involved all got their credit evidence independently of defendant. There was an "absence of evidence that [defendant] provided a credit report about Plaintiff to any potential lender...."