On April 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated a district court’s judgment, holding that it was unclear whether a credit reporting agency (CRA) took “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information” as required under the FCRA after a consumer claimed his credit report contained inaccuracies. The consumer contacted the CRA after noticing his credit report showed he was delinquent on a mortgage that was discharged in bankruptcy. The CRA sent an automated consumer data verification to the mortgage servicer who confirmed the debt. The consumer claimed that the CRA did not take further steps to investigate the situation and failed to correct the credit report until after the consumer commenced the litigation against the CRA for willfully violating the FCRA. The district court disagreed with the consumer, concluding that under both § 1681e and § 1681i, the CRA’s actions were reasonable as a matter of law. Among other things, the consumer failed to provide the CRA “with specific information from which it could have discovered that he no longer owed money” on the mortgage, the district court found, determining also that the consumer’s “theory of liability was a ‘bridge too far’ because it would require [CRAs] to examine court orders and other documents to determine their legal effect.”

On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit disagreed that the measures taken by the CRA after it was notified of the inaccuracy in the consumer’s report were “‘reasonable’ as a matter of law.” The CRA did “nothing, although it easily could have done something with the information” provided by the consumer, the appellate court wrote. However, the court emphasized that its decision was a narrow one. “Just as we cannot hold that [the CRA’s] procedures were per se reasonable, we do not hold that they were per se unreasonable,” the appellate court wrote, noting that it also could not “hold that in every circumstance where a plaintiff informs a [CRA] of an inaccuracy, the agency must examine court records to independently discern the status of a debt.” Additionally, the appellate court determined that although a bankruptcy discharge does not expunge a debt, the consumer’s credit report was still factually inaccurate because he “was no longer liable for the balance nor was he ‘past due’ on any amount for more than 180 days.”