On November 6, in Sergio L. Ramirez v. TransUnion LLC, Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Corley of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied TransUnion’s post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law, for a new trial, and to reduce the $60 million verdict previously entered by the jury. Ramirez remains the largest jury award on record for violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The named plaintiff in the class action alleged that TransUnion violated the FCRA by confusing the names of consumers with those of people on terrorist and narcotics trafficker watch lists. The class argued that TransUnion failed to ensure accuracy as required by the FCRA by cross-checking name hits with other results, such as birth dates.
In its motion, TransUnion argued that there was no evidence to back the damages alleged by Ramirez and that 80% of the class members failed to claim any damages. TransUnion also disputed the jury’s finding of a willful violation, instead arguing that it reformed its practices after facing similar litigation in a prior case, Cortez v. TransUnion LLC.
The court disagreed. In her ruling, Judge Corley rejected TransUnion’s argument that there was no proof that individual class members were injured in the same manner as the named plaintiff. Additionally, she found that the evidence clearly showed that TransUnion had used name-matching procedures, despite prior warnings against doing so, and did not make the required FCRA disclosures.
“TransUnion’s objection to the punitive damages award is essentially an argument that punitive damages should not be allowed on a class-wide basis in FCRA cases. But that is not the law,” the Court said. Further, the ruling stated:
“TransUnion nonetheless continued to sell its OFAC alert product using name-only matching criteria through the class period and beyond, choosing to merely insert the word ‘potential’ in front of ‘OFAC NAME SCREEN ALERT … . Further, TransUnion’s disclosures throughout the class period continued to fail to include the OFAC information, and instead, this information was provided separately in a confusing format which failed to advise consumers how to dispute the accuracy of the OFAC Alert.”
TransUnion appealed the Ramirez ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week.
Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor these developments and provide further updates as they are available.