|Case Name:||Client v. Ditech Financial, LLC; Equifax Information Services, LLC; Trans Union, LLC; Experian Information Solutions, Inc.|
|Court Location:||Central District of California|
- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on June 21, 2017
Recently, in the Northern District of California, a jury returned a verdict of $60 million dollars against Trans Union, LLC (reportedly the largest FCRA verdict in history) based on class action allegations that Trans Union, LLC’s procedures inaccurately mixed innocent consumers with the names of terrorists and criminals with similar names from a government watch list.
Reporter Cara Bayles of law360.com recently wrote about the verdict and explained that, “TransUnion LLC’s credit reports checked consumers against the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control database, which lists terrorists, drug traffickers and other criminals. But, the suit alleged, reports about law-abiding consumers were sometimes linked to similarly named criminals on the OFAC watch list.” Ms. Bayles’ article can be read HERE .
The 8,185 class members were made of 8,185 individuals, each of whom were awarded by the jury roughly $984 in statutory damages and $6,353 in punitive damages, bringing the total award to $8 million in statutory damages and $52 million in punitive damages. The jury verdicts can be viewed by clicking HERE and HERE.
Our law firm is also experienced in handling FCRA violations based upon mixing information between consumer files. If you or a loved one have experienced any similar problems, do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on April 4, 2017
With shocking frequency, the credit reporting agencies mix the files of two vastly different people to where one person suffers the consequences of another person’s bad life choices simply because they share a common name. For example, Lisa S. Davis published a very well-written article for The Guardian recently that describes the nightmare that she was forced to endure because her credit file had been mixed with multiple other women of the same name. The author’s nightmare included having to falsely plead guilty to traffic violations incurred by another “Lisa Davis”, after the judge threatened to jail her for lying about not being the culprit, so that she could clear her suspended driver’s license (which had been suspended erroneously due to the other “Lisa’s” traffic infractions). For years the author had believed that the other “Lisa Davis” had been stealing her identity, but in reality the system had mixed her identity with multiple other people of the same name. This article can be read in full by clicking HERE
Even though the above author’s situation happened in connection with background checks and the DMV, the “mixed file nightmare” more frequently arises in credit scenarios with respect to credit reports. This is typically discovered when someone is denied credit due to a history of negative credit in his/her file that was incurred by someone else, or receives lawsuits and/or debt collection efforts meant for someone else of the same name.
One example occurred to a Seattle woman named named Julie Miller. She had attempted to obtain credit in order to assist her disabled brother, including her desire to outfit her house to make it more disabled-assistive. She was repeatedly denied credit due to her file containing a long history of negative credit accounts incurred by someone else with a similar name. Her attempts to rectify the situation were routinely ignored by Equifax for approximately two years. Thus, a lawsuit resulted in a jury verdict of $180,000.00 in actual damages and $18.4 million in punitive damages. An article on this verdict can be read HERE
Our law firm also prosecutes these cases. In one matter, the client was denied credit due to his credit file containing a long history of negative credit incurred by his father. Experian did not identify the son as a person, and tagged the son’s identity to the father’s credit file. Thus, when a credit report was prepared for the son (who apparently didn’t exist according to Experian’s records), the report contained only information related to the father’s negative credit history. As a result, the son was denied credit.
When the son attempted to rectify this problem with Experian, his attempts were denied because he was using his own (and true) social security number as his identifying information in his letters to Experian. Because Experian did not recognize him as a person under that social security number (his true SSN), Experian denied every request. Therefore, Experian placed him in a completely helpless situation to where he had no choice other than to file a lawsuit to get his file corrected and get his life back in order.
The lawsuit also involves Corelogic, who is a reseller that was paid by the creditor to obtain the reports from Experian. Corelogic knew the information was not able to be published as the son’s credit history, yet passed the information on to the creditor as if it was the son’s accurate report anyway.
The third video is called: “Defending yourself in a lawsuit”. If you want to learn how to represent yourself, hear about common defenses against debt collectors, and gain knowledge of possible outcomes to your trial, then watch this video. NOTE: Our firm does not recommend representing yourself, as you will be facing an attorney with specialized education and training on how to argue their case against you. While it is your right to decide to represent yourself, we advise that you should have legal counsel on your side in order to not run into a legal minefield full of issues and problems that you may not anticipate.
The complaint for this case can be read by clicking HERE
If you or a loved one is experiencing anything similar, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation.
- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on July 20, 2016
Default Judgment against Assisted Credit Services, Inc. for $30,784.65 for Malicious Credit Reporting Violation and Attempting to Collect a Paid Debt amount, even though the client’s insurance company had already paid more than half of the full debt and the client owed much less than what Assisted Credit was attempting to collect. Luckily, the client was smart enough to raise some red flags instead of just being tricked into blindly paying the full amount. Because the client did not trust Assisted Credit to be honest and ethical, she then paid the balance that she did owe directly to the medical provider. Assisted Credit then got upset and argued with her for depriving them of the ability to keep a portion for their collection “services” for not paying the debt through them.
Thereafter, Assisted Credit furnished an update to the client’s credit report with the false information that she still owed a balance on the alleged debt, even despite their irrefutable knowledge that the client had already paid the balance on the debt directly to the medical provider. Therefore, it was believed that Assisted Credit submitted the derogatory credit reporting information maliciously with the intention of causing damage to the client’s credit score because she paid the balance to the medical provider directly.
After being served with the lawsuit, Assisted Credit hired an attorney, but then for whatever reason fired that attorney and failed to participate in the lawsuit. Because a company or other organization cannot represent itself in court and must appear through an attorney (Rowland v. Cal. Men’s Colony, Unit II Men’s Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 201–02 (1993), the Court graciously gave a deadline to Assisted Credit to retain a new attorney or face default judgment. When Assisted Credit failed to comply, the Court entered default of Assisted Credit. Recently, on July 19, 2016, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $30,784.65 for the violations alleged.
The Court acknowledge that “Actual damages for credit reporting violations under either statute can include emotional distress and humiliation. See Guimond v. Trans Union Credit Info. Co., 45 F.3d 1329, 1332–33 (9th Cir. 1995) (holding that “emotional distress, manifested by sleeplessness, nervousness, frustration, and mental anguish resulting from the incorrect information in her credit report” can be properly compensated). The Court agreed that the requested damages were appropriate for this client, because she “suffered frustration, anxiety, lack of focus on her livelihood, and feelings of hopelessness” and because her “consumer credit score took a hit after Assisted Credit reported the already-paid debt—a hit that Plaintiff acutely felt, as she had worked hard to rebuild her credit after a prior bankruptcy.” Further, the Court agreed that the credit reporting violations were willful: “evidence of Assisted Credit’s willful conduct in reporting a $120 debt when Assisted Credit affirmatively knew that the debt had been paid warrants punitive damages.” The Court’s well-reasoned and articulate ruling can be read by simply clicking HERE.
This represents a nice opinion confirming that the law and the Courts will protect consumers being harassed by malicious debt collectors who flagrantly violate the law. If you or a loved one are being harassed, lied to, treated unfairly, or notice inaccurate information on your credit report, you should not feel alone and helpless. The law firm of Semnar & Hartman, LLP are experienced in protecting consumers and individuals in these situations. Consultations are always free and confidential, and can be done over the phone to reduce the burden on the client who may just need some questions answered. Do not hesitate to call and discuss your rights!
- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on April 13th, 2016
It has become increasingly commonplace in our society for credit reports and credit scores to be a primary driving force behind our ability to freely live and work in the U.S. From buying a car to buying a home, obtaining student loans, obtaining a line of credit to purchase home computer equipment, to leasing a fancy smartphone, and to even obtaining a job in many work-fields, our society has turned to one that thrives on accurate credit reporting. It has even resulted in potential employers and landlords perceiving our level of responsibility and trustworthiness as being contingent upon information contained within our credit reports. Many people don’t realize is that even criminal background checks can be conducted through a credit report public records section.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we must have accurate information on our credit reports. In order to have an accurate credit score, the information reported on each account must be accurate. What might come as a surprise, however, is that it is frighteningly common for mistakes to occur in the system of generating information drive by numerical codes and syntax. All it takes is for one person to punch the wrong number in a code, and the output comes out drastically wrong. Or the computer system misreads the syntax, and suddenly two people have their individualized information mixed with each other erroneously.
On April 10, 2016, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, a frightening—albeit comical—presentation was provided to emphasize just how important this topic has become in our every-day lives. You can watch the video here:
In order for a potential employer or landlord to obtain an accurate assumption of our levels of responsibility and trustworthiness as individuals, the information reported on each account must be accurate. Even the slightest wrong comment in the wrong section (for instance, adding “settled for less than full balance” as opposed to “settled for full balance”) can have a dramatic consequence.
Therefore, you as the individual should be diligent in reviewing your own credit reports on a regular basis. It is not acceptable anymore to just ignore what is on your credit report and assume it is all accurate anyway. You may be harmed without even realizing it. For instance, you may be paying a higher interest rate on your private student loans and credit cards or car loans based on inaccurate information that you don’t even know is on your report. Don’t ignore it…you should check your reports every few weeks just to make sure nothing has changed and everything is accurate.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights and answer any questions you may have. If something seems wrong, you should ask what to do about it. We know the right method for lodging written disputes and we are happy to point you in the right direction and answer your questions. And if your rights have been violated, then we are ready and able to pursue action if necessary.
- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on November 22, 2013
For two years an Oregon woman tried and tried and tried to ask Equifax to correct the mistakes on her credit report. She discovered in 2009 that information belonging to someone else with the same name was being mixed into her credit report (known as a “mixed credit report”), including the other woman’s birthdate, social security number, negative credit information, among other wrong information. She only discovered the inaccuracies when she was denied a line of credit. The unfortunate woman tried many times to have these mistakes corrected and to have her credit report cleaned up. All credit reporting agencies other than Equifax followed through with their responsibilities. Because Equifax repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly failed to correct their mistakes, they were sued for violations that included 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681i(a)(1)(A) & (a)(5)(A) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
These Sections of the FCRA require the credit reporting agency to conduct a reasonable investigation into a dispute lodged by a consumer within 30 days, and to either delete the information if they fail to conduct the dispute within 30 days, delete the information if they cannot verify its accuracy, or modify the information if they discover the correct information.
Failure to comply with these requirements could result in damages owed to the consumer for any actual damages sustained as compensation for any financial harm or physical or emotional injury arising out of the violation, or statutory damages of $100-$1,000 for every willful violation, and any punitive damages that the court may allow. Also, a successful lawsuit guarantees that the offender will pay your attorney’s fees and costs of litigation, which means you will not have to pay any money in connection with filing the lawsuit.
Because Equifax repeatedly ignored the woman’s efforts to correct her credit report and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, the jury found them in violation of the FCRA and awarded her $180,000 in actual damages plus $18.4 Million in punitive damages!
Read the news reports at the links below:
- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on November 16th, 2013
Debt collectors and creditors often furnish inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies. Even if the inaccuracy is something so simple as putting the wrong date of default, it may still have serious consequences when you apply for a new loan, line of credit, or even for certain professional licenses. Also, the date of default is what dictates how long the negative item will stay on your credit report, and if the date of default is being reported as more recently than what the default actually was, then the negative item will stay on your credit report for longer than it actually should.
DO NOT JUST IGNORE IT—ignoring the inaccuracies means they will be able to continue to mis-report the information, which may eventually hurt you in the future. Taking care of the inaccuracy now will help prevent future harm to you.
Both the Federal and California laws allow a consumer to sue the furnisher of information, and you may be entitled to receive any actual damages suffered from their inaccurate reporting, or up to $1,000.00 per violation under the Federal law or up to $5,000.00 per violation under the California laws, depending on what type of violation they have committed.
HOWEVER, it is not as easy as you might think to sue the furnisher of information under the Federal laws for inaccurate reporting. One of the ways the U.S. Legislature has tried to help the business industry from frivolous lawsuits is that they only permit a private lawsuit if the furnisher of the information fails to conduct a reasonable investigation into disputed information after being notified by the credit reporting agency that you are disputing the inaccurate information.
YOU LODGING THE DISPUTE WITH THE FURNISHER ONLY DOES NOT TRIGGER CIVIL LIABILITY UNDER THE FEDERAL LAWS. Only if the furnisher receives a notice of dispute from a credit reporting agency does their failure to conduct a reasonable investigation into the dispute trigger liability for a civil lawsuit. If you only send the dispute to the furnisher and you do not dispute the inaccurate reporting with the credit reporting agency, then you cannot sue the furnisher under Federal law. See 15 U.S.C. 1681s-2(b).
You are also not able to sue the furnisher under Federal laws simply for supplying the inaccurate information to the credit reporting agency. You can only sue for their failure to conduct a reasonable investigation, as explained above. However, 15 U.S.C. 1681s-2(c) and (d) permit State and Federal officials to enforce the furnisher’s obligation to supply accurate information, and you should report any such inaccuracies to the Federal Trade Commission, the State Attorney General, and also lodge a dispute with the credit reporting agency to begin the process for triggering a civil lawsuit.
On the other hand, California laws are more favorable to the consumer. There is no obligation at all for the consumer to lodge a dispute with the credit reporting agency or the furnisher in order to trigger liability in a civil lawsuit for furnishing inaccurate information! See California Civil Code 1785.25(a). However, California laws could entitle you to receive punitive damages of up to $5,000 per violation if their violation was committed willfully (if they either knew or should have known of the inaccuracy of the information).
Although there are some hoops to jump through, here is the bottom line if any inaccurate information is being reported on your credit report:
- File a complaint with State and Federal officials to enforce their authority upon the violator.
- Lodge a dispute with the credit reporting agencies in order to trigger the civil lawsuit process under the Federal laws. If they fail to amend or remove the inaccurate information, then you may have a lawsuit under the Federal laws for their failure to conduct a reasonable investigation after being notified of a dispute. THIS DISPUTE MUST BE LODGED WITH THE CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES.
- Also lodge the dispute with the furnisher of the inaccurate information, because if they fail to amend or remove the inaccurate information then you may be entitled to punitive damages under the California laws for their willful violations.
- KEEP COPIES OF ALL CORRESPONDENCE AS PROOF, AND SEND LETTERS VIA CERTIFIED MAIL AS PROOF OF THEIR RECEIPT, AND TAKE DETAILED NOTES OF EVERY EVENT.
- Call us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss how we can assist you in asserting your rights!