Do FCRA Claims Survive Death?

Who has the right to bring FCRA and related claims for credit reporting abuses? What if the plaintiff dies? Can a spouse join in the suit for damages?
David A. Szwak

Do FCRA Claims Survive Death?

Postby David A. Szwak » Mon Jan 02, 2006 9:16 pm

What FCRA Claims Survive a Plaintiff’s Death?

In Lowe v. Experian, a case decided by a United States District Court in Kansas, the Court held that certain causes of action survive a plaintiff’s death, while others do not. Dorothy Lowe sued a credit reporting agency for defamation and for violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), as well as for violation of the state’s fair credit reporting act. She died before the case was decided. In an action involving substitution of the plaintiff, the District Court held that Lowe’s action for defamation did not survive her death, because defamation is a tort claim for injury of a personal nature and such claims did not survive at common law. For that reason, her claims of interference of business expectancy (the expectancy being her opportunity to obtain loans, which was
defeated by the alleged publication of false information about her credit standing) did not survive her death. On the other hand, the Court held that her FCRA claim would survive her death, if her counsel could substitute another plaintiff in Lowe’s place. The rationale for permitting the FCRA case to continue is that FCRA is “overall, remedial in nature.”
Because it is designed to prevent socially undesirable practices, as well as to compensate injured individuals, permitting the case to continue would advance the remedial purposes of FCRA. Finally, the Court held that the plaintiff’s claim of injury under the Kansas Fair Credit Reporting Act did not survive her death, because the plaintiff had not alleged any injury to real or personal estate as a result of the credit reporting agency’s actions. Instead, she claimed mental suffering and damage to reputation, both of which ended when she died. (Lowe v. Experian, 2004 WL
2271772 (D. Kan. 7/15/04).)

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