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Settlement Approved in Class Action Where Background Screener Reported Expunged Cases

On Tuesday, February 6, 2018, U.S. District Judge John R. Padova approved the settlement in Stokes v. RealPage, Inc., Case No. 2:15-cv-03894-JP (E.D. Pa). The primary claim in the lawsuit was that background screener RealPage violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the FCRA) when it reported to landlords cases that had been expunged or sealed. The case was litigated by Francis & Mailman, P.C.(link is external), and Community Legal Services, Inc. (CLS).

A client for whom CLS had handled an expungement returned six months later to complain that the case was still showing up in her background checks, preventing her from obtaining senior housing that she desperately needed in light of impending foreclosure proceedings on her house. This lawsuit sought to remediate this practice, among other things.

After the lawsuit was filed, RealPage corrected the records of Ms. Stokes and the members of the class. The settlement includes an injunction requiring RealPage to confirm with its data supplier that any expunged or sealed criminal records are not included in any database used to produce its tenant screening reports. The 131 members of the expungement class will also receive payments in excess of the $1,000 statutory damages provided for by the FCRA, minus the one-third award for attorneys fees and costs.

Settlement of another claim in the litigation requires the screener to provide to people requesting their consumer files the name of the vendor that provided any criminal record information. This relief will help consumers correct inaccuracies. Approximately 4,732 members of the “source” class will receive checks for around $200, minus fees and costs.

Francis & Mailman is one of the nation’s premiere law firms representing consumers in FCRA litigation, specializing in violations by background screeners. It has partnered with CLS in numerous FCRA class actions, including several prior class actions on this issue.

CLS is a national leader on the issue of correcting background screeners’ reporting of expunged and sealed cases. CLS pursues these class actions to vindicate both the expungements it has obtained for its clients and the public policies that provide for them. Sharon Dietrich, CLS’s Litigation Director, has published a paper on this issue, “Ants under the Refrigerator? Removing Expunged Cases from Commercial Background Checks,” Criminal Justice (American Bar Ass’n Section of Criminal Justice, Winter 2016).

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