Mixed Files: Philbin v. Trans Union

Father-Son, Mother-Daughter, Junior-Senior-Trey [Generational Designators], Common Names, Variations on Social Security Numbers and Other Mixed File Issues
David A. Szwak

Mixed Files: Philbin v. Trans Union

Postby David A. Szwak » Tue Oct 11, 2005 5:22 am

In Philbin v. Trans Union Corporation, 101 F.3d 957, No. 96-5030, [3d Cir. 12/6/96], the court faced a common case of mis-merged credit files of a father-son, junior-senior. Trans Union had been reporting a tax lien of $9500.00 on plaintiff's report. The erroneous item belonged to plaintiff's father. Plaintiff disputed the item to Trans Union. Between 1990-1993, plaintiff suffered 6 credit denials from various credit bureau reports. Trans Union continued to report the false tax lien long after the dispute. TRW continued to mis-merge plaintiff's data with his father's data. Plaintiff sued both Trans Union and TRW. TRW and Trans Union were granted summary judgment by the District Court. The Court ruled that there was no proof of a violation of 1681e[b]. The court found that plaintiff's burden under 1681e[b] was set forth in Guimond v. Trans Union, supra. Trans Union, on appeal, conceded its negligent violation of the FCRA by allowing an allegedly deleted item to "reappear" on plaintiff's report. See Stevenson v. TRW, 987 F.2d 288 [5th Cir.].

The Third Circuit reversed the District Court and held that plaintiff had produced sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on the issue of reasonable procedures merely by showing that there were inaccuracies in the TRW report. Further, TRW issued two reports which were inconsistent with each other. The inconsistencies related to the inaccurate data. These facts alone are sufficient to allow a jury to infer that TRW did not follow reasonable procedures. The Court of Appeals also rejected the restrictive District Court ruling that plaintiff must establish a credit denial by showing that the denial was not caused by other factors other than the alleged inaccurate entry.

The Court of Appeals also ruled that the District Court erred in holding that plaintiff could only meet his burden by direct evidence that consideration of the inaccurate entry was crucial to the decision to deny credit. The Court of Appeals said it is sufficient that a plaintiff produce evidence from which a trier of fact could infer that the inaccurate entry was a "substantial factor" that brought about the credit denial.

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