Back in 2009, Julie Miller of Marion County, Oregon (Salem), was denied credit by a bank due to an erroneous credit rating from Equifax. She spent almost three years trying to get Equifax to fix the mistake, but Equifax refused. So naturally, Miller sued. Yesterday, a federal jury in Portland ordered Equifax to pay Miller $18.6 million in damages--$18.4 million in punitive damages and $180,000 in actual damages. It is believed to be one of the largest judgments ever imposed against a major credit bureau.
(Miller) 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. Yet over and over, the lawsuit alleged, the Atlanta-based company failed to correct its mistakes.The Oregonian got its hands on Miller's original complaint. Read it here. It alleges that on at least three occasions, Equifax failed to even investigate Miller's claims of errors on her report. On the times it did investigate, it failed to make changes despite the obvious errors. Miller also charged that Equifax failed to send her a copy of her credit report at least twice, even though credit bureaus are required by law to provide one free credit report per year to a customer upon request. Miller claimed she was denied credit at least one other time due to the errors, and was also unable to help her disabled brother.
"There was damage to her reputation, a breach of her privacy and the lost opportunity to seek credit," said Justin Baxter, the Portland attorney who teamed 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."
As it turned out, the errors came because someone at Equifax placed information from another Julie Miller into the plaintiff's record. Apparently Equifax was so lazy that it sent the plaintiff's financial information to companies asking about the other Julie Miller. Although Equifax is appealing, now it's staring down the barrel of having to pay several times what it would have cost to simply fix the problem--though more than likely it'll be less than the initial bill for $18.6 million.