9th Circuit cuts jury award against TransUnion

The 9th Circuit slashed by about one-third a $60m jury award to a class of consumers who alleged that TransUnion violated the FCRA by incorrectly noting that these consumers were on a terror watch list.  As reported by Law 360 (paywall), the majority, in a partially split decision “affirmed much of the jury’s and lower court’s findings, but knocked punitive damages from $6,353.08 per class member down to $3,936.88 per class member, noting that the 6.45-to-1 ratio between punitive damages and statutory damages was higher than the 4-to-1 benchmark. And given the high statutory award, this ratio couldn’t be justified, the panel said.”  The opinion in Ramirez v. TransUnion, U.S.C.A. (9th Cir.) No. 17-17244, is available online.

As noted in the Law 360 story,

TransUnion has argued that there was no proof individual class members were injured in the same manner as named plaintiff Sergio L. Ramirez and that the award was ‘untethered’ to the evidence. But the panel majority shot this down, despite a partial dissent from U.S. Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown.
TransUnion has said there was no evidence to support the damages, arguing Ramirez was eventually able to buy the car and that 80% of the class members did not claim damages at all. The company also argued the FCRA violations weren’t willful, saying it reformed its practices after facing similar litigation over the OFAC practice.
‘TransUnion — one of the nation’s largest consumer reporting agencies — made all class members’ reports available to potential creditors or employers at a moment’s notice, even without the consumers’ knowledge in some instances,’ the majority said.
And this is where Judge McKeown dissented, noting that such a possibility of injury doesn’t amount to a material risk.
‘Because no evidence in the record establishes a serious likelihood of disclosure, we cannot simply presume a material risk of concrete harm,’ she said.