Supreme Court Hears Credit Report Case

Monday, March 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court agreed Monday to use an ``identity theft'' case to clarify the deadline for filing lawsuits that accuse a company of violating a federal fair credit reporting law.

The court said it would hear arguments by TRW Inc., formerly a credit-reporting company, that such claims must be filed within two years after an alleged problem occurs, even if it is not discovered until later.

TRW was sued in 1996 by a California woman, Adelaide Andrews, over disclosure of her credit reports during a time when another woman named Andrews had gotten access to her Social Security number and used it to apply for credit.

The impostor used Adelaide Andrews' information to apply for a bank charge card in July 1994 and to apply for cable TV in September 1994. On each occasion, the credit provider got a credit report from TRW.

Andrews discovered the problem in May 1995 when she sought to refinance her home. TRW deleted the incorrect information from her reports, but she sued the company in October 1996, saying it improperly disclosed her credit reports in July and September 1994 and wrongly included a transaction by the impostor in her credit report in 1995.

A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that she could not sue over the two 1994 credit reports because they occurred more than two years before she filed her lawsuit. Andrews' claim over the 1995 credit report went to trial, where the jury ruled for TRW.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July 2000 that Andrews could pursue her claims over the 1994 credit reports. She did not file those claims too late because the time clock began to run at the time she discovered the problem, the court said.

In the appeal granted review Monday, TRW's lawyers said other federal appeals courts had ruled that the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act's two-year time clock begins running when a problem occurs, not when it is later discovered. TRW is no longer in the credit reporting business.

Andrews' lawyers said the appeals court ruled correctly that the time clock begins running when an alleged credit reporting problem is discovered.