A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated a Fair Credit Reporting Act claim against a background check firm that provided incomplete information about an Uber driver’s accident record, which resulted in his firing.
Uber asked San Francisco-based Checkr Inc. to conduct a background check on one of its drivers, Christopher Twumasi-Ankrah, according to Thursday’s divided ruling by the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Christopher Twumasi-Ankrah v. Checkr, Inc.
Checkr asked the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles for any information it had about Twumasi-Anrah’s driving history. The state agency informed Checkr, among other things, that he had been involved in three “accidents.” Checkr passed this information along to Uber, without conducting any further investigation, according to the ruling, and Uber fired him shortly after receiving the report.
When Mr. Twumasi-Ankrah acquired the report, he realized that two of the three accidents reported by Checkr were not his fault: A legal judgment said he was “not guilty” of a minor traffic offense, and a police report treated him as the victim of a hit-and-run-accident.
Mr. Twumasi-Ankrah sent this information to Checkr, but the company refused to supplement or amend its report after receiving this documentation.
Mr. Twumasi-Ankrah filed suit against the company in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, charging violation of the FCRA. The district court dismissed the case, which was reinstated by the appeals court in a 2-1 ruling.
The FCRA requires consumer reporting agencies to “assure maximum possible accuracy of the information” they convey about individuals, said the majority opinion. This “lies at the heart of this appeal,” it said.
Mr. Twumasi-Ankrah “has stated a plausible claim” with respect to this element of the law, it said. “Taken as true, these allegations plausibly suggest that Checkr reported ‘misleading’ information about Twumasi-Ankrah that could be ‘expected to have an adverse effect’ on him,” it said. “That is enough to survive a motion to dismiss,” it said, in reversing the lower court’s ruling and remanding the case for further proceedings.
The dissenting opinion states, “I agree with the majority that the words ‘maximum possible accuracy’ require (consumer reporting agencies) to produce consumer reports that are more than just technically accurate. … However, I would affirm the district court’s judgment of dismissal because the amended complaint did not plausibly allege that there was misleading information in Checkr’s report or that the misleading information caused Uber to fire Twumasi-Ankrah.”
Mr. Twumasi-Anrah’s attorney, Serge Lemberg, of Lemberg Law LLC in Wilton, Connecticut, said, “It looks like the 6th Circuit aligned itself with the rest of the country in finding that material omissions are actionable under the FCRA, just like outright lies.”
The court’s holding is “only fair,” he said.
Checkr’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.