Lawsuit against Equifax and Kay Jewelers saying you are dead


Lawsuit against Equifax and Kay Jewelers saying you are dead

Lawsuit against Equifax and Kay Jewelers saying you are deadWe have filed many federal court lawsuits against credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, etc) for false credit reporting under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act).

This one (and similar ones we have filed) is one of the most unusual as Equifax and Kay Jewelers (Sterling Jeweler) said our client was dead when he was actually alive.

Seems pretty simple to solve, right?

Apparently, this is too complicated for these sophisticated companies to figure out how to fix.

Our client stood up to these folks and sued them.  Every time this happens, we get a little bit closer to convincing these companies to start taking credit report disputes seriously.

I thought you might enjoy reading the lawsuit.  The absurdity of the situation called out to me to use some attempts at humor in the lawsuit.  While Equifax and Kay Jeweler treated their responsibilities like they were a joke, they sure weren’t laughing when they realized they had been caught and sued.

If you have questions about credit report errors, feel free to give us a call at 205-879-2447 or contact us through our website and we’ll be happy to chat with you.  We’ll help you figure out your options and if you need to sue companies for not taking your credit reports seriously, we can help.

John Watts

 

COMPLAINT

COMES NOW the Plaintiff, by and through counsel, and for Plaintiff’s Complaint against the Defendants states as follows:

  1. This action arises out of Defendants’ violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. [hereinafter “FCRA”]).
  2. Defendants claim on Plaintiff’s credit report that Plaintiff is dead.
  3. Plaintiff, who is alive and well, is bothered by the claim that he is dead.
  4. In the words of Mark Twain, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
  5. The false reporting by Defendant of Plaintiff’s alleged death has prevented Plaintiff from obtaining financing.
  6. Naturally, creditors are reluctant to loan money to folks who supposedly are dead.
  7. Plaintiff disputed with Defendant Equifax and told Defendant Equifax Plaintiff is alive.
  8. All Defendants refused to remove the “deceased” entry from Plaintiff’s credit report.
  9. To fix the problem, and to prevent others from going through this, Plaintiff has brought this suit.
  10. Hopefully Defendants will finally acknowledge Plaintiff is alive and will change their business practices to prevent this from happening in the future to any other consumer.

JURISDICTION

  1. Personal jurisdiction exists over Defendants as they had the necessary minimum contacts with the State of Alabama and this suit arises out of their specific conduct with Plaintiff in Alabama. All the actions described in this suit occurred in Alabama.
  2. Subject matter jurisdiction exists under federal question jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. Section 1331).

VENUE

  1. Venue is proper as Plaintiff lives in Alabama and the Defendants do business in this judicial district.

PARTIES

  1. Plaintiff is a natural person who is a resident of Alabama.
  2. Defendant Equifax Information Services, LLC, (“Defendant” or “Equifax”) is a foreign company that engages in the business of maintaining and reporting consumer credit information and does business in this Judicial District. Its principal place of business is the State of Georgia and it is incorporated in Georgia.
  3. Defendant Sterling Jewelers Inc. d/b/a Kay Jewelers, (“Defendant” or “Kay Jewelers”) is a foreign company that engages in the business of reporting consumer credit information to credit reporting agencies. It conducts business in this Judicial District. Its principal place of business is the State of Delaware and it is incorporated in Delaware.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

  1. On February 17, 2015, Plaintiff was informed that Kay Jewelers was reporting him as being deceased.
  2. Plaintiff disputed the “deceased” notation on his Equifax report, specifically the Defendant Kay Jewelers account.
  3. No other account lists Plaintiff as having died.
  4. Plaintiff, in fact, is alive.
  5. While this dispute by Plaintiff that he actually is not dead would seem to be perhaps the easiest dispute to process in the history of credit disputes, Defendants Equifax and Kay Jewelers are stubbornly sticking to their story that Plaintiff is dead.
  6. Defendants Equifax and Kay Jewelers were not concerned and did not care about what the status of Plaintiff being alive or dead as Defendants Equifax and Kay Jewelers did not intend to perform a reasonable investigation.
  7. Defendants Equifax and Kay Jewelers did not perform any type of reasonable investigation.
  8. Defendants Equifax notified Defendant Kay Jewelers in accordance with the FCRA of the dispute by Plaintiff.
  9. Alternatively, Defendant Equifax did not properly notify Defendant Kay Jewelers and, as part of this failure, did not include all relevant information provided by Plaintiff in its notification of Defendant Kay Jewelers.
  10. Defendants failed to properly investigate this dispute, as if Defendants had properly investigated, the deceased status would have been deleted.
  11. On March 4, 2015, Defendant Equifax sent a letter, ironically, to Plaintiff informing Plaintiff that “we have verified that this item [Kay Jewelers account] has been reported correctly.”
  12. Defendant Equifax went on to say it had consulted with Defendant Kay Jewelers about the investigation.
  13. With continued irony, Defendant Equifax invited Plaintiff to write to Defendant Kay Jewelers if he had any questions about his status as being dead.
  14. All Defendants were provided with more than sufficient information in the dispute and in their own internal sources of information to conduct an investigation and to conclude that the account complained of was being reported incorrectly.
  15. Defendant Equifax has completely abdicated its obligations under federal law and has instead chosen to merely “parrot” whatever its customer, Defendant Kay Jewelers, has told it to say.
  16. Defendant Equifax has a policy to favor the paying customer, in this situation Defendant Kay Jewelers, rather than what the consumer says about being alive or dead.
  17. The primary reason for this wrongful policy is that furnishers (such as Defendant Kay Jewelers) provide enormous financial rewards to Defendant Equifax, so the word of the furnisher is given much more weight than the word of the consumer, even about whether the consumer is alive or dead.
  18. Defendant Kay Jewelers has promised through its subscriber agreements or contracts with the credit reporting agencies to accurately update accounts but Defendant Kay Jewelers has willfully, maliciously, recklessly, wantonly, and/or negligently failed to follow this requirement as well as the requirements set forth under the FCRA, which has resulted in the intended consequences of this information remaining on Plaintiff’s credit reports.
  19. All Defendants maliciously, willfully, intentionally, recklessly, and/or negligently failed to review the information provided in the disputes and that was already in their files and to conduct a reasonable investigation on Plaintiff’s disputes, which led as a direct result and consequence to all of the Defendants either failing to delete information found to be inaccurate, failing to replace the inaccurate information with accurate information, and/or reinserting the information without following the dictates of the FCRA.
  20. At all relevant times the Defendant Equifax failed to maintain and failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of Plaintiff’s credit reports, concerning the account in question, violating 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b).
  21. One single example: If Defendant Equifax had reasonable procedures in place, it would have noticed the oddity of only account showing Plaintiff as dead and would have had a human being investigate this.
  22. Instead, the blind parroting of what the furnisher says is as deep as Defendant Equifax will go.
  23. Defendant Equifax has failed to maintain Plaintiff’s account with maximum accuracy and the Defendant Equifax and Defendant Kay Jewelers have failed to properly investigate the account in response to the dispute made by Plaintiff.
  24. The conduct of the Defendants has proximately cause Plaintiff past and future monetary loss, past and future damage to Plaintiff’s credit worthiness, past and future mental distress and emotional anguish, and other damages that will be presented to the trier of fact.
  25. It is a practice of all of the Defendants to maliciously, willfully, recklessly, wantonly and/or negligently ignore and refuse to follow the requirements of the FCRA.
  26. All Defendants are sophisticated businesses and they know their conduct is wrong.
  27. All actions taken by the Defendants were done with malice, were done willfully, and were done with either the desire to harm Plaintiff and/or with the knowledge that their actions would very likely harm Plaintiff and/or that their actions were taken in violation of the FCRA and/or that they knew or should have known that their actions were in reckless disregard of the FCRA.
  28. All Defendants have engaged in a pattern and practice of wrongful and unlawful behavior with respect to accounts and consumer reports and as such all Defendants are subject to punitive damages and statutory damages and all other appropriate measures to punish and deter similar future conduct by these Defendants and similar companies.
  29. Defendants are liable to Plaintiff through the doctrine of Respondeat Superior for the wrongful, intentional and negligent acts, errors, and omissions done in violation of federal law by its employees and agents.

CAUSES OF ACTION

COUNT I.

VIOLATIONS OF THE FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT

15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.

  1. Plaintiff incorporates by reference all of the above paragraphs of this Complaint as though fully stated herein.
  2. Defendant Equifax is a “consumer reporting agency,” as codified at 15 U.S.C. 1681a(e).
  3. Defendant Kay Jewelers is an entity who, regularly and in the course of business, furnishes information to one or more consumer reporting agencies about its transactions or experiences with any consumer and therefore constitutes a “furnisher,” as codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2.
  4. Plaintiff notified Defendant Equifax directly of a dispute on the Defendant Kay Jewelers account’s completeness and/or accuracy, as reported.
  5. Defendant Equifax properly notified Defendant Kay Jewelers of Plaintiff’s dispute in accordance with the FCRA requirements.
  6. Alternatively, Defendant Equifax failed to notify Defendant Kay Jewelers of Plaintiff’s dispute in accordance with the FCRA requirements.
  7. Defendants failed to delete information found to be inaccurate, reinserted the information without following the FCRA, or failed to properly investigate Plaintiff’s disputes.
  8. Plaintiff alleges that at all relevant times Defendant Equifax failed to maintain and failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of Plaintiff’s credit reports, concerning the account in question, violating 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b).
  9. Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants failed to conduct a proper and lawful reinvestigation.
  10. All actions taken by the Defendants were done with malice, were done willfully, and were done with either the desire to harm Plaintiff and/or with the knowledge that their actions would very likely harm Plaintiff and/or that their actions were taken in violation of the FCRA and/or that knew or should have known that their actions were in reckless disregard of the FCRA.
  11. All of the violations of the FCRA proximately caused the injuries and damages set forth in this Complaint.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, Plaintiff prays that judgment be entered against Defendants for all damages allowable (including statutory, actual, compensatory, nominal and punitive the total of which Plaintiff claims more than $75,000.00), costs, expenses, fees, injunctive relief to prevent further violations, and for such other and further relief as may be just and proper.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

 

                                                      

John G. Watts (ASB-5819-t82j)

Stan Herring (ASB-1074-n72m)

Watts & Herring, LLC

The Kress Building

301 19th Street North

Birmingham, Alabama 35203

(205) 879-2447

(888) 522-7167 facsimile

[email protected]

[email protected]

Attorneys for Plaintiff

 

PLAINTIFF DEMANDS A TRIAL BY JURY IN THIS CAUSE.

 

Serve defendants via certified mail at the following addresses:

 

Equifax Information Services, LLC

c/o CSC Lawyers Incorporating SVC, Inc.

150 S. Perry Street

Montgomery, Alabama 36104

 

Sterling Jewelers, Inc. d/b/a Kay Jewelers

c/o The Corporation Company

60 Commerce Street

Montgomery, Alabama 36103


14 Comments

  1. Anthony McNeill says:

    Attorney Watts I was told that under section 609(a)(1)(A) that Credit Reporting agencies are required by federal law to verify through physical verification of the original signed consumer contact and all accounts they post on a credit report/is this true or false?

    • John Watts says:

      Anthony,

      I’ve never seen a court say that as a blanket rule. Now if we are talking about identity theft, etc. then it may be appropriate for a credit reporting agency to request the paperwork from the furnisher. But its not a requirement to look at physical/hard copies.

      The basic idea is the reporting agency has to be reasonable in doing a legitimate investigation. So that means each situation is somewhat unique.

      Hope this helps — let me know more specifics and I can get you a more complete answer.

      Thanks for your comment!

      John Watts

      • Anthony McNeill says:

        Pursuant to the fcra, Credit Reporting agencies must verify 100 percent accuracy of an account. If the creditor sends the big 3 bureaus a automated code through the e-oscar system saying the account is verified; how is that a reasonable investigation because they are just relying on a code that they received. The Credit Reporting agencies send the consumer an computer generated letter that: we have verified that this item belongs to you and never saw any proper verification that this account belongs to the consumer. It is clear as mud that the Credit Reporting agencies want the item to remain because they are getting paid off consumers accounts that’s in there database

        • John Watts says:

          I hear you — its a sham of a system for many people. What you have pointed out is exactly why we must give the credit reporting agencies more than enough info to see that the reporting is false. Make it so when they don’t fix it, they look like idiots to the jurors and to federal judges.

          As consumers we can help by only disputing through the credit reporting agencies that are actually incorrect. I don’t like the idea of folks who dispute any negative account. It certainly hurts their credibility and it can hurt others who are disputing false information.

          Thanks for your comment and I share and understand your frustration….

          John Watts

  2. fred holt says:

    as I understand the furnisher of false info to the credit bureau must pay up to $1,000 per event of reporting false info. If a bank reported that I owed them $10,000.00, that it had been charged off four times and the orig amount was $100,000.00 and all of that is false. Would that one event or six?
    Define an event please?
    thanks
    fred

    • John Watts says:

      Fred,

      Great question!

      You are referencing “statutory damages” — some special rules on those. But let’s make sure we are on the same page first.

      There are several aspects to damages against a “furnisher” of false information.

      If there is a negligent violation of the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) then you can get actual or compensatory damages. That could be $5 or $5,000,000. It all depends on what you can prove. (You also can get attorney fees awarded).

      If there is a “reckless” or “willful” violation, then you can get punitive damages (to punish and deter) and also statutory damages.

      Statutory damages are up to $1,000 per violation of the law. So if a furnisher (let’s say Bank of America) violates the FCRA 6 times, then that could be up to $6,000.

      Do remember you can’t sue the furnisher until you have disputed under the FCRA and the furnisher does a lousy investigation. So lousy that it is considered reckless or willful in order to get statutory damages.

      In the scenario you laid out, I’m not sure if these would be violations. The multiple charge offs might based upon what your credit reports show. But if you really had $100,000 charged off and Bank is showing only $10,000, I’m not sure a judge would be impressed with that. You would need to show how this hurts you. The argument from the Bank will be this makes you look better so it is hardly a willful violation.

      Again on all of this remember it is not just false credit reporting. You have to dispute the false information and then the furnisher (Bank) has to falsely continue to report and its investigation must be reckless or willful in order to get statutory damages.

      So not an “event” as much as a violation of the FCRA is what we count as we add up the potential statutory damages.

      Finally, if you can get statutory, you can get punitive. Many folks forget this but it is key. Punitives, if awarded, would normally be much higher than statutory damages.

      If you are in Alabama and want us to look at your situation, give us a call at 205-879-2447 and ask for Randi.

      Thanks for your excellent comment/question!

      John Watts

      • fred holt says:

        The $100,000.00 charge off is false also. The bank reported more than 2800 false info over 3 years before I caught it. When I notified the bank they removed it. This came after a 3 year lawsuit; then a settlement. the false reporting also breached the settlement.
        Question: Can the bank report unlimited false info then remove it when they get caught and not be guilty of anything?
        Thanks I appreciate your answer and respect it; it seems no one knows the answers?

        • John Watts says:

          Fred,

          The general rule is that a furnisher — like the bank — cannot be sued UNTIL you dispute through the credit reporting agencies and then only if the false information remains.

          So from my understanding of the law, if the bank did false credit reporting but then fixed it once you notified the bank, then no liability under the FCRA.

          Certainly you need to consult with a lawyer who can look at the specifics of your situation to get an actual legal opinion — I’m just giving you some general concepts here.

          If there was a breach of the settlement, that may give you an angle. Check with your lawyer who represented you in the original lawsuit.

          I would also look to the credit reporting agencies — did they violate the FCRA when they allowed this false info to be on your reports? It is hard but sometimes we can sue the agencies for bad conduct before a dispute — it is called a “maximum accuracy claim”. Basic idea is a credit reporting agency must take reasonable steps to assure maximum accuracy. Lots of hoops to jump through to make that work.

          Bottom line is I believe you will have a challenge using the FCRA but talk to a lawyer in your state to have that lawyer look over the specifics and then tell you their opinion on your options.

          Thanks for your comment and your nice thoughts — best wishes and I hope the bank never even thinks about you in the future. Sounds like you deserve to be “shed” of these jokers…..

          John Watts

  3. fred holt says:

    Thank you! If you will answer one more time I will leave you alone. If I understand you, in theory a bank can report false info 1 million times intentionally, then I catch them, they remove it, they are not guilty of violating the fcra? I have read the fcra and I cannot find where it says that.
    I live in a small town, made a judge made because he owed the bank 925k, cannot get a lawyer.
    Your help is greatly appreciated. If you will allow me I will attach the lawsuit I have filed to an e-mail and send it to you for your review. Of course I will pay you whatever you charge before you do the work if you want.
    You are the only person I have found that I trust. thanks sincerely fred

    • John Watts says:

      Fred,

      You are welcome my friend….

      Yes, you have stated it correctly — its amazing a furnisher (for example a bank) can violate the law repeatedly but then fix it when you tell them and they escape liability.

      Here’s how to find this in the FCRA.

      The FCRA lays out obligations for a furnisher in Section 1681s-2 (also known as Section 623). The first portion of this talks about what a furnisher must do to accurately report.

      Section 1681s-2(b) talks about obligations AFTER being notified by a credit reporting agency of your dispute.

      So far sounds great — the furnisher has an obligation under 1681s-2(a) [accurate information] and 1681s-2(b) [fix errors after disputes].

      But then drop down to Section 1681s-2(c)/(d) and I believe you will find that only the government can enforce violations of 1681s-2(a). That means on a time line, any errors/violations of the FCRA by the furnisher BEFORE being notified of a dispute through the credit reporting agencies, can only be handled by the government.

      It is a lousy rule and you better believe the furnishers know this rule. You can google and find case decisions where people lose their cases because of this rule.

      You can’t change the law right now — you have to operate within it.

      Do your own research, etc. so you feel comfortable with this. I don’t like this loophole. That’s why I mentioned the angle with the credit reporting agencies — that is known as a 1681e(b) claim. Very hard but possible in limited circumstances.

      Fred, if you live in Alabama you can email me at john [at] wattsherring.com and I’ll look at the lawsuit you have filed. If you live somewhere else, get with a consumer protection lawyer in that state who understands and teaches other lawyers about the FCRA. This way you can get a good feel for your options.

      Best wishes and sorry you are having to deal with crooked places like the bank….

      John Watts
      205-879-2447

  4. fred holt says:

    I represented my self in the first lawsuit.(and I won)

  5. fred holt says:

    I live in cosby, tn. I am going to represent myself and I will win!
    thanks again, you have been very helpful. if I lived in Al. I would definitely retain you. I graduated from Samford with a bs in Pharmacy in 1971.
    thanks
    fred

    • John Watts says:

      Excellent — best wishes on crushing them in your case!

      Thanks for the kind words, especially from a fellow Samford guy. 🙂

      John

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