Seven years. That’s how long items are supposed to stay on your credit report. Consumers know that. Participants in the accounts receivable management industry know that. Just about everyone knows that. But sometimes there are entries on a credit report that make determining whether seven years has past or not more difficult than it would seem. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling granting summary judgment for a defendant in a Fair Credit Reporting Act case that was accused of willfully and negligently violating the statute when it disclosed a 10-year-old criminal charge that had been dismissed six years prior to an inquiry being made on the plaintiff’s credit report.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Moran v. The Screening Pros can be accessed by clicking here.
This ruling marks the second time the Ninth Circuit has heard arguments in the case. The first time, the Court ruled the defendant violated Section 1681c(a)(5) of the FCRA by disclosing the charge. The case was remanded back to the District Court, which ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, ruling that the defendant did not willfully or negligently violate the statute.
To prove willfulness or negligence under the FCRA, a plaintiff must show that a furnisher acted pursuant to an objectively unreasonable interpretation of the statute. Ultimately, the Appeals Court looked to guidance from the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which “appeared to permit reporting the charge.” No reasonable fact finder could have reached the conclusion that the defendant’s actions were “negligent, much less willful,” the Appeals Court wrote.