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Lawyers win $5.3M fee award in FCRA suit

A team of lawyers that included Virginia litigators has won a $5.3 million fee award in a consumer class action suit alleging defendant LexisNexis Risk & Information Analytics Group Inc. violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Lawyers from Houston and Philadelphia joined with Virginia consumer protection veterans – Dale Pittman of Petersburg, and Len Bennett, Susan Rotkis, Janelle Mikac and Matthew Erausquin of Newport News-based Consumer Litigation Associates — to handle the plaintiffs’ case.

Richmond Senior U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer entered a Sept. 5 order approving the settlement in a suit that affects over 200 million consumers. The defendant maintained all along that its Accurint® reports were not “consumer reports” under the FCRA, and did not require certain consumer safeguards. They had a 2008 unanimous vote from the Federal Trade Commission in 2008 to back up their view, they said.

Under the settlement terms governing injunctive relief for the broader class of plaintiffs,  the defendants will overhaul their existing Accurint® for Collections suite of products, which they currently do not treat as “consumer reports” and will develop two new suites of products and services. The first suite, “Collections Decisioning,” falls within the FCRA definition of a “consumer report,” and the second suite, “Contact & Locate,” will not be treated as involving “consumer reports.” A “Consumer Access Program” will be created for the Contact & Locate suite, to include procedures to allow an individual to obtain a free copy of a Contact & Locate Comprehensive Report regarding the individual once per year.

In addition to the injunctive relief, the settlement called for a common fund of $13.5 million to be distributed pro rata to a class of about 31,000 people, for about $300 per person, after attorney’s fees were deducted.

Spencer said the plaintiffs’ lawyers “expended large amounts of time and labor, demonstrated skill commensurate with their reputations, and achieved an excellent result in this large and complex action.” The case is Berry v. LexisNexis Risk & Information Analytics Group Inc.

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