Johnson v. MBNA America Bank, NA
On 2/11/04, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision in this appeal, affirming a judgment entered against MBNA following a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff Johnson on a claim that MBNA violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to conduct a reasonable investigation of plaintiff's dispute concerning an MBNA account appearing on her credit report. MBNA's first contention was that the district court made an error when it ruled furnishers of credit information must perform a "reasonable" investigation of consumer disputes. MBNA, in essence, says there isn't a qualitative component to the investigation provision that would allow a court or jury to assess whether the creditor's investigation was reasonable. The Court went back to the plain meaning of the term "investigation" and concluded it would make little sense to believe that Congress would use the term "investigation" to include superficial, unreasonable inquiries. The court therefore held that creditors must indeed conduct a "reasonable" investigation of their records after receiving notice of a consumer dispute from a credit reporting agency. The next issue, then, was whether the jury's determination that MBNA did not conduct a reasonable investigation was supported by the evidence. The Court looks at the steps MBNA took and finds that a jury could reasonably conclude that MBNA acted unreasonably. Although the disputed credit account was for $17,000, the jury found that Johnson's actual damages stemming from the incorrect information furnished by MBNA totaled $90,300. After finding that MBNA had negligently failed to comply with the FCRA, the jury awarded Johnson $90,300 and that verdict was upheld on appeal. There are many other issues discussed. Read the Court's opinion for complete details.