PORTLAND, OR - 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.