Federal judge slashes jury award against Equifax
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A woman who won nearly $19 million in a lawsuit against Equifax over credit report mistakes saw the jury award cut to less than $2 million by a federal judge in Portland.
Judge Anna J. Brown said Wednesday that she reduced the punitive damages to bring the amount more in line with the $180,000 in compensatory damages.
Attorney Justin Baxter, who represents plaintiff Julie Miller, hasn’t decided whether to appeal, he told The Oregonian (http://is.gd/RUU7Dh ).
“We were expecting a reduction but we are disappointed by the result,” Baxter said.
The jury was told that Miller contacted Equifax eight times between 2009 and 2011 to correct inaccuracies, including erroneous accounts and collection attempts, as well as an incorrect Social Security number and birthday. The Marion County woman’s lawsuit alleged the Atlanta-based company failed to correct the mistakes.
Miller discovered the problem when she was denied credit by a bank in December 2009.
Courts have generally been moving toward punitive damages within a single-digit ratio of what was awarded in compensatory damages. Brown’s order noted that her reduction to $1.62 million still represented “the highest single-digit ratio accepted within constitutional limits” at 9-to-1.
“The court concludes Equifax engaged in reprehensible conduct that caused real harm to Miller,” Brown wrote. “The amount of the punitive-damages award, although within constitutional limits, nevertheless, should be enough to deter Equifax and others similarly situated from repeating this type of conduct in the future.”
The jury award in July was one of the largest granted to a consumer in a case against a major credit bureau. Equifax appealed in December.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com