Woman sues Equifax: Are credit report mistakes worth $18 million?

Woman sues Equifax: After spending two years trying to get Equifax to fix mistakes on her credit report, an Oregon woman sued. On Monday, a jury awarded her $18.6 million.

A federal jury in Oregon awarded $18.6 million to a woman who spent two years unsuccessfully trying to get Equifax Information Services to fix major mistakes on her credit report.

Julie Miller of Marion County was awarded $18.4 million in punitive damages and $180,000 in compensatory damages, though Friday's award against one of the nation's major credit bureaus is likely to be appealed, The Oregonian reported.

The jury was told she 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. Her lawsuit alleged the Atlanta-based company failed to correct the mistakes.

"There was damage to her reputation, a breach of her privacy, and the lost opportunity to seek credit," said Justin Baxter, a Portland attorney who worked 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."

Tim Klein, an Equifax spokesman, declined to comment on specifics of the case, saying he didn't have any details about the decision from the Oregon Federal District Court.

Miller discovered the problem when she was denied credit by a bank in early December 2009. She alerted Equifax and filled out multiple forms faxed by the credit agency seeking updated information. She had found similar mistakes in her reports with other credit bureaus, Baxter said, but those companies corrected their errors.

A Federal Trade Commission study earlier this year of 1,001 consumers who reviewed 2,968 of their credit reports found 21 percent contained errors. The survey found that 5 percent of the errors represented issues that would lead consumers to be denied credit.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.