Among the many class action cases Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. has brought over the last decade, the case of Ramirez v. Trans Union LLC is one of the most consequential.
When Sergio Ramirez tried to buy a car more than ten years ago, Trans Union LLC confused his identity with someone on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list. The OFAC list is a catalog of terrorists, money launderers, drug traffickers, and others subject to government sanctions. By law, Americans cannot do business with people or companies on this list.
Even though it was inaccurate, Trans Union’s false association prevented Ramirez from financing a car because the dealership could not risk the severe fines and even imprisonment for conducting business with someone on the OFAC list.
Ramirez and his lawyers at Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. filed a class action lawsuit against Trans Union claiming that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) because it had used a name-only matching procedure that did not consider such basic information as dates of birth, which would have clearly shown that Ramirez was not on the OFAC list. Moreover, when Ramirez asked Trans Union for his credit file, it did not tell him that the OFAC information was in his file as the FCRA requires.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of California certified Ramirez’s case as a class action, finding that he was typical of over 8,100 other consumers.
In 2017, the case went to trial and Ramirez won the highest verdict for any case brought under the FCRA in history: $984.22 per class member in statutory damages and $6,353.08 per class member in punitive damages, a total of more than $60 million.
After Trans Union appealed, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s eight-figure verdict against Trans Union and held that each of the class members had standing to sue Trans Union at trial, even when their credit reports were not sent to would-be lenders. The appellate court also ruled that the jury’s award of about $8 million in statutory damages to the class was proportionate to Trans Union’s offenses and reasonable in light of the evidence of those offenses. The court also reduced the jury’s original punitive damages award to about $32 million.
Trans Union appealed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling to the United States Supreme Court, which agreed to hear argument. Trans Union claims that some of the other members do not have standing to sue in federal court. If Trans Union’s position is accepted, thousands of class members could lose their hard-won recovery.
On March 30, 2021, Ramirez and his lawyers argued that the Ninth Circuit’s decision should be upheld, and a ruling is expected in June.
IN SETTLEMENTS AND VERDICTS