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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

6th Circuit affirms FCRA summary judgment

Courts Credit Reporting Agency Appellate Sixth Circuit FCRA Bankruptcy Consumer Finance


On November 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a credit reporting agency (defendant) accused of violating the FCRA. According to the opinion, a father and son (plaintiff) filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions just over a year apart with the same attorney. Both petitions had their similar names, identical address, and, mistakenly, the plaintiff’s social security number. Although the attorney corrected the social security number on the father’s bankruptcy petition the day after it was filed, the defendant allegedly failed to catch the amendment and erroneously reported the father’s bankruptcy on the plaintiff’s credit report for nine years. When the plaintiff noticed the error, he sent the defendant a letter and demanded a sum in settlement. The defendant removed the father’s bankruptcy filing from the plaintiff’s credit report. The plaintiff sued two credit reporting agencies, alleging they violated the FCRA by failing to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” of his reported information. One of the agencies settled with the plaintiff. A district court granted the other defendant’s motion for summary judgment, which the plaintiff appealed.

On the appeal, the 6th Circuit noted that the plaintiff “has standing to bring this action, but also agree that he cannot establish that [defendant’s] procedures were unreasonable as a matter of law.” The appellate court found that, because the defendant gathered information from reliable sources and because someone “with at least some legal training” would have had to manually review the bankruptcy docket to notice that the Social Security number had been updated, the defendant did not violate the FCRA. The appellate court wrote that the defendant’s “processes strike the right balance between ensuring accuracy and avoiding ‘an enormous burden’ on consumer credit reporting agencies.” Furthermore, the 6th Circuit stated that, “[g]iven the sheer amount of data maintained by these companies, we know that consumers are ‘in a better position . . . to detect errors’ in their credit reports and inquire about a fix.”