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Davenport v. Sallie Mae, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 5, 2015

SALLIE MAE, INC., et. al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          James E. Davenport, Plaintiff, Pro se, Beltsville, MD.

         For Sallie Mae, Inc., SLM Corporation, Defendants: Bonnie L Martin, PRO HAC VICE, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak and Stewart PC, Indianapolis, IN; Joleen Okun, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak and Stewart PC, Washington, DC.

         For Equifax, Inc., Equifax Information Services, LLC, Defendants: Nathan Daniel Adler, Neuberger Quinn Gielen Rubin and Gibber PA, Baltimore, MD.

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         James Davenport, pro se, has sued Sallie Mae, Inc., and SLM Corporation (since renamed, so collectively, " Navient" ), alleging numerous federal and state law violations resulting from Navient's reporting of Davenport's credit history to various credit reporting agencies. Navient has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Paper No. 99). For the reasons that follow, Navient's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED.


         On or about July 19, 2006, Davenport signed a Federal PLUS Loan Application and Master Promissory Note (" Note" ) in favor of Navient to obtain a loan to finance his daughter's post-secondary education. On December 4, 2006, Navient disbursed $6,800 of loan proceeds to Union College on behalf of Davenport's daughter. The daughter was continuously enrolled in college from the fall of 2006 until her graduation in May 2010.

         Davenport alleges that his contract with Navient provided that the repayment of the loan principal would be deferred during the period of his daughter's post-secondary studies and would only begin six months after her graduation, with the understanding that in the meantime interest would accrue and be capitalized. Navient contends that the original Note included no such deferment provision; to the contrary, it says Davenport agreed to repay the loan in periodic installments beginning on December 4, 2006.

         From early 2007 until approximately June 2010, Navient and Davenport had numerous communications via email, phone, and ordinary mail regarding their disagreement over when the repayment of the loan would begin. During these communications, Davenport received letters granting him: a forbearance from February 19, 2007 through February 18, 2008 (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 2); another forbearance from February 19, 2008 through February 18, 2009 ( id. Ex. 4); and a third from February 19, 2009 through February 18, 2010 ( id. Ex. 6). The first payment on the last forbearance was originally due on March 18, 2010. Id. Ex. 8.

         On April 2, 2010, Navient sent Davenport a late notice for failure to pay as of March 18, 2010. Def.'s Mot. Ex. ? (Dav. Dep. 48:20-49:2; Ex. 5). On April 9, 2010, Davenport called Navient and, still believing that the original deal only required payments to begin 6 months after his daughter graduated (i.e., the end of 2010), again sought delay of the first payment.

         Navient again agreed to delay the payments, though there is disagreement as to the nature of that delay. Davenport suggests that Navient agreed to a 10-month forbearance, until December 2010. On April 9, 2010, Navient sent Davenport two letters. The first acknowledges a ten-month forbearance beginning on " February 19, 2009 [sic]" ; the second advises that his first payment would be due on May 18, 2010. Pl.'s Resp. Exs. 9, 10.

         Navient, on the other hand, argues that Davenport asked for (and was mistakenly granted) a deferment. Because the deferment was keyed to his daughter's school schedule, Navient applied a deferment to his account from January 5, 2010, through May 5, 2010. To keep the bookkeeping consistent, this required an ex post facto change of the prior forbearance's end date from February 18, 2010, to January 4, 2010.

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          On April 16, 2010, Navient says it realized that Davenport did not qualify for a deferment and therefore removed it from his account. Because of the ex post change in the end date of his prior forbearance to January 4, 2010, Navient concluded that Davenport in fact had been delinquent since January 5, 2010. Accordingly, on April 16, 2010, Navient sent three letters to Davenport advising him that the deferment had been removed, that he was more than 60-days delinquent, and that he needed to begin payment right away in the amount of $334.95. Def.'s Mot. Ex. A (Austin Dec., Exs. 4-6).

         On April 19, 2010, Davenport called to dispute this change and did so again via a letter dated April 22, 2010. In the letter, he expressed frustration with Navient's process and stated that he had already elected forbearance in conversations with Navient representatives. Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 12. He referenced the April 9, 2010 letter from Navient confirming that selection. Davenport requested a full statement of his account, an indication of whether the account was current, and a verification in writing of any adverse statements Navient might have communicated to any credit bureaus with respect to his account.

         Nonetheless, on April 30, 2010, Navient sent notice of his delinquency to the Credit Reporting Agencies (" CRAs" ). Def.'s Mot. Ex. A (Austin Dec. ¶ 23, Ex. 8).

         On or about May 24, 2010, Davenport received correspondence from Navient stating that his loan repayment was 90-days overdue and that his delinquency had been reported. Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 13. Davenport informed the three CRAs (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) that he disputed the report.[1] On August 23 and 24, 2010, Navient received the first two automated consumer dispute verifications (" ACDVs" ) regarding Davenport's dispute. Navient received two more ACDVs on October 13, 2010. Def.'s Mot. Ex. ? (Considine Dec. ¶ 9, Ex. 1).

         Navient states that it verified the accuracy of its report that Davenport was delinquent and notified the CRAs, after which the CRAs ended their own investigations. Davenport disputes the accuracy of Navient's report and submits that his credit rating suffered because of Navient's reporting to the CRAs, triggering a host of damages. These included, among others: the loss or dramatic reductions of several business lines of credit; the loss of an investment opportunity; an increase in his car insurance premiums; and emotional distress.

         At some point in May 2010, Davenport again requested and received a forbearance that was retroactively applied to the previously delinquent period. Def.'s Mot. Ex. A (Austin Dec. ¶ 24; Ex. 9). Navient states that it has not reported any further delinquency on Davenport's loan beyond the April 30, 2010 delinquency. Id. ¶ 25; Def.'s Mot. Ex. ? (Davenport Dep., 92:17-21). Pursuant to Navient's policy, however, a prior delinquency report to the CRAs is not removed when a retroactive forbearance is applied that covers the delinquency period. Def.'s Mot. Ex. C (Considine Dec. ¶ 24).

         Davenport's Complaint in this Court originally asserted twelve causes of action against Navient: (1) negligent violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (" FCRA" ); (2) willful violation of the FCRA; (3) malicious defamation; (4) violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (" FDCPA" ); (5) violation of the Maryland Consumer

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Debt Collection Act (" MCDCA" ) and consequent violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (" MCPA" ); (6) interference with contract; (7) interference with economic relationships; (8) injurious falsehood; (9) injurious falsehood amounting to defamation; (10) civil conspiracy; (11) intentional ...

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