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Jury awards woman $18.6M over credit report errors

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:02 p.m. HST, Jul 27, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. » A federal jury in Oregon awarded $18.6 million to a woman who spent two years unsuccessfully trying to get Equifax Information Services to fix major mistakes on her credit report.

Julie Miller of Marion County was awarded $18.4 million in punitive damages and $180,000 in compensatory damages, though Friday's award against one of the nation's major credit bureaus is likely to be appealed, The Oregonian reported.

The jury was told she contacted Equifax eight times between 2009 and 2011 in an effort to correct inaccuracies, including erroneous accounts and collection attempts, as well as a wrong Social Security number and birthday. Her lawsuit alleged the Atlanta-based company failed to correct the mistakes.

"There was damage to her reputation, a breach of her privacy and the lost opportunity to seek credit," said Justin Baxter, a Portland attorney who worked on the case with his father and law partner, Michael Baxter. "She has a brother who is disabled and who can't get credit on his own, and she wasn't able to help him."

Tim Klein, an Equifax spokesman, declined to comment on specifics of the case, saying he didn't have any details about the decision from the Oregon Federal District Court.

Miller discovered the problem when she was denied credit by a bank in early December 2009. She alerted Equifax and filled out multiple forms faxed by the credit agency seeking updated information. She had found similar mistakes in her reports with other credit bureaus, Baxter said, but those companies corrected their errors.

A Federal Trade Commission study earlier this year of 1,001 consumers who reviewed 2,968 of their credit reports found 21 percent contained errors. The survey found that 5 percent of the errors represented issues that would lead consumers to be denied credit.

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2NDC wrote:
Scrap the credit reporting companies. There's gotta be a better system. It looks pretty bad when a man could go his entire life paying for everything in cash, and never accumulating any debt only to get "punished" in a sense when he's denied credit when he wishes to make a major purchase (like a home). Sad society when we need to be in debt to acquire more debt. :-(
on July 27,2013 | 01:51PM
yellowginger wrote:
I agree! And they have a find a way to address identity theft, as 2 instances showed up on my credit report- took a while to clear up.
on July 27,2013 | 02:02PM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Credit cards are great for building credit for major purchases like homes as long as you are disciplined and pay your full balance by the monthly due date. If you treat it like an endless supply of money, that is when your credit rating gets in trouble and you eat it on the interest. You can also get mileage for traveling just for using it so it can benefit you two ways. Budget your money for meals, gas, etc. for the month and put everything on credit card and make sure you don't spend what you don't have. Put the card on auto bill pay and just check your statements for accuracy. Once your credit is established, it helps you qualify for major purchases because it counts towards your credit score. Carrying cash is just as dangerous because if you have it, you will spend it. On a credit card, if the bill is $5.25, you pay exactly $5.25 but if you have a twenty dollar bill, you would find away to spend the remaining $14.75. I don't know about scrapping the credit reporting companies because they are the ones that can freeze your credit to protect your identity. I would not trust the US Govt. to do that for us.
on July 27,2013 | 03:48PM
nssanes wrote:
If the reporting agencies fail to keep accurate records they do us real harm. Just as there are known penalties for the late payment of bills, a credit agency should have a fixed period of time to correct mistakes and if not done, should reimburse the wronged person in a timely manner.
on July 27,2013 | 05:00PM
sayer wrote:
This happened to someone I know who was buying a house - he spent a year trying to get the credit bureau to fix the wrong info and they flat out refused, over and over. You are only allowed to dispute an item a certain number of times within a 6 month period, so if they don't address it, you're screwed. Finally he was able to get the item removed by contacting a manager from the company who reported the error over Facebook. The credit bureau never would fix the problem.
on July 28,2013 | 02:22AM
f8ldzz wrote:
"Credit cards are great for building credit for major purchases like homes as long as you are disciplined and pay your full balance by the monthly due date." THIS IS AN ABSOLUTELY FALSE STATEMENT. IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT, THEN I'D SUGGEST YOU DON'T SPREAD FALSEHOODS LIKE THIS. THIS IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO INCREASE YOUR CREDIT RATING. IN FACT, YOU'RE ACTUALLY HURTING YOUR CREDIT RATING BY DOING THIS.
on July 27,2013 | 10:55PM
Eradication wrote:
Paying your bills in a timely fashion and monitoring your debt to income ratio are keys to building good credit. There are no quick fixes to poor or bad credit. Only time will fix your credit rating and only if you pay your bills and control credit spending. Also, do what this lady did and check your credit report on a regular basis. I believe more than 21% of CRs contain errors including outdated information.
on July 27,2013 | 11:54PM
Anonymous wrote:
he said great...not best, so his statement is somewhat accurate
on July 28,2013 | 09:14AM
Skyler wrote:
Umm... you actually build credit by using it - not by PIF each month. You pay dutifully, on time, and if you're bright - you pay more than the minimum payment due.
on July 28,2013 | 12:05AM
ippikiokami wrote:
Yes, and no. In the old days, when a borrower needed a mortgage to purchase a home, the bank's loan officer was tasked to visit and interview your co-workers/employer at work and your neighbors where you lived. If your co-workers and neighbors didn't like you, no mortgage loan. Today, the credit report is easier, cheaper, quicker and less subjective than the old method. Great for those with high credit scores, bad for those with low scores, especially with inaccuracies. If you have low scores, hire a credit report fixer/attorney and your report should be cleaned/fixed in a few months, regardless of what is on your report, after all, the credit reporting industry is really illegal.
on July 28,2013 | 10:28AM
primowarrior wrote:
Those credit reporting companies can cause real damage to people's lives, and are not always willing to take responsibility to make it right. In this case, I think the bigger the judgement against Equifax, the better. Perhaps they'll finally get the message.
on July 27,2013 | 01:58PM
sayer wrote:
I hope so.
on July 28,2013 | 02:22AM
Grimbold wrote:
Finally a jury verdict million Dollar award I can agree with !
on July 27,2013 | 03:38PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
You think Equifax got the message? If you're going to sell credit information about consumers, make sure it's accurate info.
on July 28,2013 | 03:54AM
mikethenovice wrote:
What's with these insane amount of compensation that allows a person to quit work and live on the proceeds? At the end, we consumer will end up paying for the jury's decision.
on July 28,2013 | 06:09AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Seems as nobody wants to work anymore. Just sue them with enough to live on, and live happy forever is not a fairy tale anymore.
on July 28,2013 | 06:27AM
Macadamiamac wrote:
Yea! A small win against a zombie "citizen." Maybe Equif-ck will start behaving responsively if not responsibly now that it has to pay a price for its hubris.
on July 28,2013 | 07:24AM
george702 wrote:
Every once in a while the little guy hits the lottery. Geesh. 8 attempts to correct equates to 2.3 million dollars per attempt. I guess that's great work if you can get it. It will get appealed and be reduced and/or settled dramatically. Fear not, this will do nothing for the consumer except line the pockets of the greedy lawyers who are the only ones that ever make out. What a great system we have. Disgusting all around. At times we are no better than a banana republic.
on July 28,2013 | 12:49PM
mikethenovice wrote:
Agreed. Only the lawyer will end up with the bulk of the award.
on July 28,2013 | 06:28PM
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