Federal District Court Rejects Efforts by Experian and Debt Collector CMI to Dismiss "Mixed Identity" Fair Credit Reporting Case.

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On August 26, 2010, the United States District Court, Central District of California, Hon. George King presiding, rejected the legal motions of defendants credit reporting giant Experian Information Sytems and debt collector CMI to have an important and potentially precedent-setting case under the Fair Credit Reporting Act thrown out of court. Cartwright v. Experian, et al., Case No. CV 09-427-GHK. The case involves Harry Cartwright, Sr., a retired pastor, who has alleged that Experian and CMI confused his identity, and his credit history, with his son’s. Many negative credit entries from his son’s credit report began appearing on Harry Sr.’s credit report, ruining his credit. In the consumer credit industry, this is known as a “mixed file” and has tormented countless consumers for years. Upon discovering the mixed file, Harry Sr. and Harry Jr. tried repeatedly over a period of years to straighten out Harry Sr.’s credit, to no avail. Ultimately, Harry Sr. filed a lawsuit in the federal district court, whereupon Experian and CMI filed extensive motions stating that they had done nothing wrong and had not violated the law. The court rejected these arguments and the case will now proceed towards trial. Mr. Cartwright is represented by Robert F. Brennan of Brennan, Wiener & Associates in La Crescenta, widely regarded as the leading consumer protection and credit damage law firm in Southern California.

Following extensive briefings, the federal district court in Los Angeles has rejected bids by major credit bureau Experian and debt collector CMI to throw out a “mixed file” case involving a retired pastor who relies upon his good credit to help with his necessary living expenses, and those of his wife.

In 2005, Harry Cartwright Sr.’s identity began getting mixed with his son’s, who is also named Harry Cartwright. However, Cartwright Sr. and Cartwright Jr. have different social security numbers and, obviously, different birth dates, as well as other differences in identifying information. Cartwright Sr. and Cartwright Jr. worked together to clean up Harry Sr’s credit report because, as a senior citizen on a fixed income, he relies upon his good credit for necessities and to keep his living expenses down.

However, Cartwright Sr. alleges that, in spite of numerous efforts including letters from attorneys, Experian and CMI continued to report Harry Jr.’s bad credit onto Harry Sr’s credit report. Harry Sr.’s credit report with Experian was not cleaned up until after the lawsuit was filed.

Experian and CMI each filed what are called “summary judgment” motions, wherein the court can throw a case out if the evidence is not sufficient to permit the case to proceed. However, in this case, plaintiffs presented abundant evidence to support Cartwright’s case, and the federal district court agreed that the case should proceed towards trial.

“We have seen a lot of mixed identity situations in my office. Credit files with the large credit bureaus can get mixed because of similar names, similar addresses or similar social security numbers, whether or not the two people being mixed up are related. Often, unfortunately, we see someone with stellar credit having his or her file mixed with someone who has poor credit, thereby ruining the credit of the person who has done what he or she had to do to create good credit. This is not something that is new to the credit bureaus. Experian’s own website has a page on mixed identities and how to un-mix them. Here, during discovery, we learned that Experian had not even followed its own procedures for unmixing a mixed identity, “ comments Brennan.

"This is yet another example of how the big players in the credit reporting industry really ignore and neglect the consumers they're supposed to protect," says Brennan. "Harry Cartwright Sr. tried for two years to clean up his credit by himself, only to have the door slammed in his face repeatedly. Only when he hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit did things start to improve. But by then a lot of damage had been done."

Mr. Brennan also criticized Experian and CMI for acting as if the credit information belonged to them and not to Harry Cartwright Sr. "So often in these cases, you see an attitude that big credit bureaus and debt collectors believe that a consumer's credit information belongs to them It does not. If nothing else, I hope Experian and CMI learn from this ruling that a consumer's credit information belongs to the consumer, and a credit bureau and a debt collector each a sacred trust to protect it from wrongful damage."

Contact Information: Robert F. Brennan, Brennan, Wiener & Associates, 3150 Montrose Ave., La Crescenta, Ca. 91214, (818) 249-5291. Mr. Brennan and his firm are the leading consumer protection and credit damage attorneys in Southern California. Mr. Brennan has been selected as a "Southern California Super Lawyer" for five years running, from 2006 through 2010. His website is http://www.socalcreditdamage.com.

United States District Court, Central District of California, Cartwright v. Experian, et al., Case No. CV 09-427-GHK
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