United States District Court, D. Maryland
Deborah K. Chasanow United States District Judge
pending and ready for resolution in this Fair Credit
Reporting Act ("FCRA") case is a motion to dismiss
filed by Defendant Equifax Information Services, LLC
("Equifax"). (ECF No. 17). The issues have been
fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being
deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following
reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted.
otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are set forth in the
amended complaint and construed in the light most favorable
to Plaintiff Tracy Arthur Alston ("Plaintiff"). In
April 2015, Plaintiff requested his credit report from
Defendant Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
("Experian"), Defendant Equifax, and TransUnion,
LLC ("TransUnion"). (ECF No. 15 ¶ 4). On April
20, TransUnion, which is not a defendant in this case,
provided Plaintiff with his credit report. (Id.
¶ 7). On April 22, Equifax sent Plaintiff a letter
requesting additional information to verify his identity and
address. (Id. ¶ 8). Experian did not respond to
Plaintiff's request. (Id. ¶ 11). According
to Plaintiff, Equifax's request was unnecessary because
he "had already provided sufficient identification (i.e.
social security card and state ID) to ver[if]y his identity
and address." (Id. ¶ 9).
proceeding pro se, filed a putative class action
complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County
on November 5, 2015 (ECF No. 2), and Defendants timely
removed the action to this court (ECF No. 1). On December 21,
Equifax filed a motion to dismiss and to strike the class
allegations. (ECF No. 12). On January 12, 2016, Plaintiff
filed an amended complaint asserting one count under the FCRA
for "willful noncompliance with the requirements of 15
U.S.C. § 1681g(a)." (ECF No. 15 ¶ 22).
Although the amended complaint mooted Equifax's motion to
dismiss, the court dismissed Plaintiff's class
allegations because a pro se plaintiff may not act
as a class representative. (ECF No. 16).
January 29, Equifax filed the pending motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 17). On the same day,
Experian answered the amended complaint. (ECF No. 18).
Plaintiff responded to Equifax's motion (ECF No. 20), and
Equifax replied (ECF No. 21).
Standard of Review
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test
the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir.
2006). A complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule
8(a)(2), which requires a "short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief." "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a
‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of
entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007). That showing must
consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action" or "naked
assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citations omitted). At this stage, all well-pleaded
allegations in a complaint must be considered as true,
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and
all factual allegations must be construed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See Harrison v. Westinghouse
Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th
Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7
F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating
the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need not be
accepted. Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882
F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions
couched as factual allegations are insufficient,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events.
United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844,
847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v.
Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir.
se pleadings are liberally construed and held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976));
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Liberal
construction means that the court will read the pleadings to
state a valid claim to the extent that it is possible to do
so from the facts available; it does not mean that the court
should rewrite the complaint to include claims never
presented. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1132
(10thCir. 1999). Even when pro se
litigants are involved, however, the court cannot ignore a
clear failure to allege facts that support a viable claim.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387,
391 (4th Cir. 1990).
alleges that Equifax violated § 1681g(a) by not
providing his credit report on request. "Section
1681g(a) requires [credit reporting agencies] to disclose to
consumers the information in their credit file upon request.
Sections 1681h(a) through 1681h(d) contain the procedures
[credit reporting agencies] must follow when providing these
disclosures." Ross v. F.D.I.C., 625 F.3d 808,
813 (4th Cir. 2010). Section 1681h(a) notes that,
when making a disclosure to a consumer under § 1681g,
"[a] consumer reporting agency shall require . . . that
the consumer furnish proper identification." 15 U.S.C.
§ 1681h(a). The FCRA provides a private right of action
against credit reporting agencies. If a violation is
negligent, the affected consumer is entitled to actual
damages under § 1681o; if a violation is "willful,
" the consumer may be entitled to actual damages,
statutory damages, and punitive damages under § 1681n.
See Safeco Ins. Co. of Am. v. Burr, 551 U.S. 47, 53
argues that Plaintiff's claims against it should be
dismissed because the complaint fails to plead facts showing
that Equifax "willfully" violated the FCRA under
§ 1681n. According to Equifax, its request for
additional information was not a failure to provide Plaintiff
with his credit file, but was merely an attempt to comply
with § 1681h(a)'s identification requirement.
Plaintiff counters that the complaint contains sufficient
facts supporting a claim of willful violation because it
"alleges [that] Equifax's response was reckless and
was the result of a policy designed to preclude consumers
from receiving their entitled credit reports. Specifically,