Equifax breach victims are finally winning – in small claims court

Inside Subprime: June 20, 2018

By Jacob Rogers

There have been few – if any – wins for consumers since last year’s major Equifax hack. Until now, that is.

To review, last September, credit rating agency Equifax announced it had been hacked in one of the biggest data breaches on record. All told, 145.5 million Americans had their sensitive data, like their social security numbers, credit card data and more, exposed in the breach. Equifax doesn’t need your permission or consent to have this data and, to make matters worse, their response to the hack ended up routing spurned consumers to a phishing website, albeit created by someone with good intentions, and opening the company up to even more malware attacks.

Now, nearly a year after the attack, consumers are finally getting justice.

After discovering that her data and her family’s data had been exposed by Equifax, Jessamyn West, 49, decided to sue in small claims court. West had recently dealt with the death of her mother, and she said that ordeal was made worse by the breach. Not only was she in mourning for her mother, she also had to deal with the looming specter of her family’s data being exposed to criminals and fraudsters.

According to WSB Radio, West sued for $5,000 and the judge awarded her $690. As their article points out, that is not a lot of money, but it’s still costing Equifax, particularly in legal fees.

And West isn’t the only winner. Christian Haigh, co-founder of a litigation startup called Legalist, wrote a blog about the experience of taking Equifax to court, saying, “I also filed my own lawsuit against Equifax, half expecting to have my case dismissed, and half expecting Equifax to not even show up. In fact, Equifax did appear.”

Haigh won $8,000, which he believes happened because he came prepared to fight in court.

“I handed over the print-outs I had made the night before: of my screenshot saying I had been hacked, my Lifelock receipt, and the news articles on Equifax executives leaking our data, dumping their stock, and subsequently sharing links to phishing websites that lured consumers into (yet again), giving hackers their data,” he wrote.

This victory spurred action from Equifax, according to Haigh. In a rather brazen intimidation attempt, the company appealed and brought the vice president of their legal department to court the next time around, along with an attorney who charges clients around $1,000 an hour.

Despite this, Haigh won again, after presenting the same evidence from his previous trial, plus a report from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office, which detailed how Equifax could profit from their negligence. Haigh’s story goes to show that, when it comes to court proceedings, half the battle of winning is showing up and not being afraid. According to Haigh, he was not the only one who won similar judgments.

While everyone may not have the same success in court, these stories show that simply being willing to show up for court can make a huge difference, as many people simply don’t bother. This provides another way for consumers to hold corporations accountable since, one can be sure, Equifax doesn’t want to pay $8,000 to 145.5 million people.

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