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Sloane v. Equifax Information Services, LLC
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
510 F.3d 495 (2007)
Someone stole the identity of Suzanne Sloane (plaintiff). After Sloane discovered the theft, she asked Equifax Information Services, LLC (Equifax) (defendant) to correct her credit report. During the ensuing months, Sloane applied for a home loan but was denied due to her uncorrected credit score. Sloane also applied for a car loan, but she was offered the loan on worse terms than she would have received absent the uncorrected report. Sloane repeatedly asked Equifax to correct the report but was ultimately unsuccessful. At one point, Equifax actually sent a letter to Sloane that was addressed to the identity thief, warning the thief that someone may have stolen the thief’s identity. Approximately 21 months after the identity theft, Equifax still had not fixed the report. Consequently, Sloane sued Equifax for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Sloane sought economic and emotional-distress damages. At trial, Sloane described in detail her emotional distress caused by the ongoing encounters with Equifax and the failure to fix the report. Sloane stated that the emotional distress manifested itself in insomnia. Sloane also provided examples of her marriage suffering as a result. Sloane’s husband testified that Sloane’s emotional distress was observable to him and others. The jury returned a verdict in Sloane’s favor, and the district court entered a judgment of $106,000 for economic damages and $245,000 for emotional-distress damages. Equifax appealed, arguing that the jury award was excessive. Other FCRA cases involving identity theft resulted in awards of under $100,000. Prior to the FCRA’s enactment, defamation was how plaintiffs received compensation for distribution of misinformation. Defamation cases often resulted in jury awards of $250,000.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Motz, J.)
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