Credit Bureau Settles FCRA Class Action Alleging Reporting Errors

A credit reporting agency has settled a long-pending class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, agreeing to pay more than $3 million and remove from its consumer credit reports judgments entered in Virginia General District Court.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) class action, Soutter v. Equifax Information Services LLC, was given the green light in April, with U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne agreeing the standards for class certification had been met.

In the class claim, plaintiff Donna K. Soutter contended Equifax willfully violated the FCRA when it failed to take reasonable measures to ensure the accuracy of its consumer reports concerning a judgment that was entered in error in May 2008, but vacated a month later. Soutter contended that although she made a written dispute concerning the vacated judgment to Equifax in July 2008, it was not removed from her credit report until after she sent a second written dispute in December 2008. Soutter claimed that the methods used by Equifax’s contractors to obtain judgment information led to the errors in her reports.

Soutter’s case began in October 2010, when she first filed a motion for class certification in the same U.S. District Court. Soutter won the motion, but Equifax appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Ruling Soutter’s case failed the typicality requirement of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) (3), the Fourth Circuit sent the case back to U.S. District Court, with instructions that a new motion for class certification should meet a rigorous test of all four Rule 23(a) factors.

A proposed settlement has been filed with the court under which Equifax has agreed to pay $3 million to fund $180 payments to class members who opt-in. The settlement agreement points out that Equifax denies any liability and the agreement was made “solely for the purpose of avoiding the burden, expense and uncertainty of continuing litigation and for the purpose of putting to rest the controversies . . .”

 

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Donald Maurice provides counsel to the financial services industry, successfully litigating matters in the state and federal courts in individual and class actions. He has successfully argued before the Third, Fourth and Eighth Circuit U.S. Courts of Appeals, and has represented the financial services industry before several courts including as counsel for amicus curiae before the United States Supreme Court. He counsels clients in regulatory actions before the CFPB, and other federal and state regulators and in the development and testing of debt collection compliance systems. Don is peer-rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell, the worldwide guide to lawyers. In addition to being a frequent speaker and author on consumer financial services law, he serves as legal counsel to DBA International and as chair of the ABA's Bankruptcy and Debt Collection Subcommittee. He serves on the governing Board of Regents of the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers and on the Governing Committee of the Conference on Consumer Finance Law .