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Woman Wins $18.6 Million Verdict Over Smeared Credit

posted by Nathalie Martin

I had to laugh at a comment made by Ken Doran in response to my post on credit score internet dating.  Ken claimed that while he agrees that people considering joining their lives should share financial information, he wouldn't give a rodent's backside about the future partner’s credit score. Thirty plus years as a consumer bankruptcy attorney has taught him that the reports often contain errors, a fact confirmed by a Federal Trade Commission study finding that 21 percent of reports do contained errors.

With an error rate that big, it is surprising that creditors rely as heavily as they do on such reports. Smeared credit is serious business, though, as a recent $18 million jury verdict shows. Julie Miller of Oregon was awarded $18.4 million in punitive damages and $180,000 in compensatory damages against Equifax, after Miller contacted Equifax eight times between 2009 and 2011 in an effort to correct inaccuracies, including erroneous accounts and collection attempts, a wrong Social Security number, and an incorrect birth date.

The jury found that Miller suffered a damaged reputation, a breach of privacy, and the lost opportunity to seek credit. She has a brother who is disabled and who can't get credit on his own, and she wasn't able to help him. Miller discovered the problem when she was denied credit by a bank in early December 2009. She had found similar mistakes in her reports with other credit bureaus, but the others corrected their errors. Needless to say, Equifax plans to appeal.

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