California Supreme Court “depublishes” opinion that would have prevented consumers from protecting themselves against credit reporting abuses.
The Issue: The California Court of Appeal held that the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act preempted the right of California citizens to recover from those who knowingly or negligently furnish inaccurate information about them to credit reporting agencies.
Why It Matters: According to some studies, more than half of all consumers are victims of significant errors in credit reporting—for reasons such as identity theft, negligence by creditors or credit reporters, or deliberate misrepresentation. The resulting damage to credit ratings can make it impossible to purchase a home, and in some cases may lead to financial ruin. The Court of Appeal’s decision threatened to deprive victims of what may be their only recourse, while removing the incentive for furnishers of credit information to investigate disputes seriously.
Public Good’s Contribution: Public Good wrote to urge action by the California Supreme Court. Our letter called on the Supreme Court to resolve a split among different appellate courts that had considered whether the right to sue was preempted, and explained the importance of the issue to consumers and creditors alike.
Outcome: The Supreme Court ordered the Court of Appeal’s opinion decertified, depriving the decision of precedential status—an intervention made in only about twenty of the more than five thousand cases seeking Supreme Court review in a year. Because the Court left untouched the contemporaneous opinion of another California Court of Appeal that had reached an opposite conclusion, the decertification order effectively resolved the split in the courts of appeal in favor of consumers.
169 Cal.App.4th 901 (2008), review denied and ordered not published, 2009 Cal. LEXIS 4272 (April 29, 2009) (S170308).