A couple of months ago, the United States Supreme Court issued what will no doubt become a landmark opinion in the FCRA litigation arena. That case, Safeco Insurance Co. of America v. Burr, clarified for all the courts in the land, including the Seventh Circuit (that had wrongly imposed a higher standard), that punitive damages may be awarded under the FCRA for the reckless disregard of a statutorily-imposed standard of conduct. Many courts had previously said that only intentional or knowing conduct would suffice.
What does this mean? Well, it’s HUGE! Quite simply, it means that punitive damages will be much, much easier for consumers to obtain under the FCRA. It means that FCRA defendants will have a much more difficult time obtaining summary judgment on punitive damages claims. It means the value of many FCRA lawsuits just went up astronomically, because now consumers can get these claims before a jury. And when that happens, look out! I think we’ll see a slew of large punitive damage verdicts in the next year.
Hopefully, this will make both the furnishers and credit reporting agencies care a little bit more about maintaining standards designed to ensure accurate credit reporting.