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FCRA Prison Jail Address Class Action

Outdated Prison or Jail Addresses on Credit Reports

On May 10, 2018, Caddell & Chapman filed a class action lawsuit regarding outdated prison or jail addresses on credit reports. Plaintiff James Mello brings suit against Trans Union, LLC. Mr. Mello alleges that TransUnion unlawfully reported the address of the Bristol County Jail as one of his previous addresses, with Mr. Mello’s former prisoner identification number referenced as the apartment number. Mr. Mello had been released from the Bristol County Jail over 7 years previously, and all records of the disposition of the charges against him have been sealed under Massachusetts law.

Under federal law, consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) like TransUnion may not report adverse information, other than records of convictions of crimes, that antedates the report by more than 7 years. Mr. Mello brings his claims under 15 U.S.C. § 1681c on behalf of a Class of similarly situated persons. The Class consists of all those who have been released from a prison or jail facility and who have had a consumer report relating to them prepared by TransUnion during the past five years in which the address of the prison or jail facility where they had been incarcerated over seven years before the report was prepared was listed as a previous address.

A person’s reputation as reflected in his or her credit report is vitally important to participating in the central activities of life in the United States. Employers, lenders, and landlords use consumer reports to screen applicants, borrowers, and tenants. Adverse or derogatory information on a credit report thus puts consumers at risk of being denied a job, credit, housing, or access to other means by which to live. Recognizing that the content of consumer reports can have a significant impact on people’s lives, Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to regulate the content of consumer reports. The FCRA is designed to ensure that CRAs report information in a manner that is “fair and equitable to the consumer” and “with regard to the confidentiality, accuracy, relevancy, and proper utilizing of such information.”

As former prison and jail inmates seek to re-integrate themselves into society, access to credit, housing, and employment are critical to their success. The FCRA’s privacy protections—prohibiting the reporting of adverse information, other than records of convictions, more than seven years old—serve important national policy interests in promoting former inmates’ ability to leave their pasts behind and lead law-abiding lives. Although Mr. Mello has rehabilitated himself and had all records of the disposition of charges against him sealed, he nevertheless suffered an invasion of his legal rights to privacy, putting him at risk of being denied credit, housing, employment, or insurance. He sought damages on behalf of the Class and to change TransUnion’s practices to protect the privacy of former prison or jail inmates and facilitate their rehabilitation as productive citizens.

The case was Mello  v. TransUnion, LLC, No. 18-cv-03354, in the Northern District of Illinois. It was dismissed voluntarily on July 26, 2018. Please contact Amy Tabor if you have questions about this action, or if you believe you might have been affected by the unlawful reporting of outdated prison or jail address information on credit reports.

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