Appeals Court Affirms MSJ For Defense in FCRA Permissible Purpose Case

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant that was accused of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by accessing an individual’s credit report after an identity thief submitted the plaintiff’s personal information to the defendant.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Domante v. Dish Networks can be accessed by clicking here.

The parties in this case have a history together. The plaintiff previously sued — and settled with — the defendant, after the plaintiff’s identity was stolen and used to open two accounts with the defendant. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendant agreed to flag the plaintiff’s Social Security number in order to keep anyone else from opening an account in the plaintiff’s name.

An individual other than the plaintiff filled out an online application for services with the defendant, which requires only the last four digits of the Social Security number to be provided. The individual also used a different last name, address, and phone number than the plaintiff’s. The defendant submitted the information to a credit reporting agency, and it matched the information with the plaintiff and send the defendant her credit report. The credit report included the full Social Security number of the plaintiff, at which point the defendant flagged the application and blocked it from going forward. It also instructed the credit reporting agency to delete the inquiry, which it did.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant accessed her credit report without a permissible purpose and violated the terms of the settlement in the original lawsuit.

As the second suit was progressing, two other applications were submitted to the defendant using the last four digits of the plaintiff’s Social Security number. Both applications were flagged and blocked.

A District Court judge ruled that the defendant had a legitimate business need to verify the information that was submitted to determine the eligibility of the applicant. The plaintiff appealed.

This marks the first time the Eleventh Circuit has weighed in on the legitimate business need provisions of the FCRA, and it chose to follow the path laid out by the Sixth Circuit in a similar case.

The Appeals Court was also not convinced of the plaintiff’s argument that the defendant should have known better that the plaintiff would not have initiated an application because of their previous settlement.

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