In Ramirez v. TransUnion, LLC, the appeals court upheld the jury’s June 2017 award of roughly $8 million in statutory damages across the class, but reduced the jury’s $52 million punitive damages across the class to about $32 million.
The Ninth Circuit’s decision comes eight years after Ramirez filed a class action lawsuit against TransUnion in February 2012. In that lawsuit and according to court documents, Ramirez alleged that he was unable to buy a car a year earlier because the TransUnion credit report the car dealer received incorrectly said that Ramirez’s name matched two names of people on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (“OFAC”) list of Specially Designated Nationals (“SDNs”). SDNs are people prohibited from transacting business in the United States for national security reasons.
“Beyond Mr. Ramirez’s case, the Ninth Circuit’s decision will help large groups of consumers harmed by companies that violate the FCRA and hold those violators accountable for their actions,” said John Soumilas, trial counsel for Ramirez and the class he represented, and a partner at Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. “The court makes clear that U.S. consumers can be harmed by false information on their credit reports simply as a result of that information appearing on those reports, and even when those reports are not sent to would-be lenders.”
At the June 2017 trial in the case, the jury found TransUnion liable for willfully (i) failing to follow reasonable procedures to ensure accuracy of the OFAC information the company included in its credit reports; (ii) failing to disclose to the class members their entire credit reports by excluding the OFAC information from those reports; and (iii) failing to provide a summary of rights as required under the FCRA when it sent class members the OFAC information.
In upholding the jury’s eight-figure verdict against TransUnion, the Ninth Circuit held that each of the class members had standing to sue TransUnion at trial, even when their credit reports were not sent to would-be lenders. The appellate court also ruled the evidence presented during the trial was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict, that Ramirez could properly represent the class of people harmed by TransUnion’s actions, and that the jury’s award of about $8 million in statutory damages across the class (or $984.22 per class member) was proportionate to TransUnion’s offenses and reasonable in light of the evidence of those offenses.
As to its reduction of the amount of punitive damages, the court held that the jury’s original award of damages was unconstitutional because it was beyond a 4-to-1 ratio as compared to the statutory damages. As a result, it reduced that original award of $52 million punitive damages across the class (or $6,353.08 per class member) to about $32 million (or $3,936.88 per class member). The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to reduce the punitive damages.
“The Ninth Circuit’s ruling correctly upholds the jury’s determination that TransUnion willfully violated the FCRA in a number of ways by labeling about 8,000 people as terrorists on their credit reports without taking basic steps to verify the accuracy of that designation or being clear about how those people could correct TransUnion’s reckless actions,” said James A. Francis, a partner at Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. who tried the case with Soumilas and argued the appeal. “In its decision, the Ninth Circuit itself noted how reckless TransUnion was with its mislabeling of people as terrorists and how harmful its actions could be or were to Mr. Ramirez and the rest of the class.”
The case is captioned Sergio L. Ramirez v. TransUnion LLC, No. 17-17244, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court issued its opinion on February 27, 2020.
About Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C.
Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. is a leading consumer rights law firm dedicated to holding corporate actors accountable for misusing our clients’ personal and financial information, or getting that information wrong in credit reports, background checks, and similar documents. For over two decades, we have been on the cutting edge of protecting consumers and holding Corporate America accountable for its wrongdoing. For more information, please visit http://www.creditreportproblems.com or call 877-735-8600.