Court Reduces Punitive Damages Award in FCRA Case

In Ramones v. AR Res., Inc., No. 19-62949-CIV-SCOLA/SEITZ (S.D. Fla. Apr. 8, 2022), the court refused to set aside an award of punitive damages based on violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but it reduced the jury’s award from $700,000 to $450,000.

The case arose out of a dispute concerning medical debts incorrectly included on the credit reports of plaintiff Francisco Javier Perez Ramones. The plaintiff’s 83-year-old father incurred numerous medical bills placed in collections with defendant AR Resources, Inc. (ARR). ARR reported 19 of these accounts as belonging to the son. Ramones challenged the validity of the debts with Trans Union and Experian on 31 separate occasions, and when the reporting was not corrected, he filed suit against ARR, asserting that the debt collector failed to conduct reasonable dispute investigations in violation of Section 1681s-2(b) of the FCRA.

During the proceedings, Ramones presented evidence showing that ARR’s investigators never reviewed the customer message fields related to the disputes and verified the erroneous information despite the fact that Ramones has a different name, a different Social Security number, and a different date of birth than his father. Based on this evidence, the court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Ramones as to liability. The case proceeded to trial on damages only, and the jury awarded Ramones $80,000 in actual damages and $700,000 in punitive damages.

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