United States District Court, D. Maryland
Alston, Plaintiff, Pro Se.
Experian Information Solutions, Inc., Defendant, represented
by Meredith Sarah Campbell, Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy and
Ecker PA, Sandy David Baron, Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy and
Ecker PA & Joy Einstein, Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy and
Equifax Information Services LLC, Defendant, represented by
Nathan Daniel Adler, Neuberger Quinn Gielen Rubin and Gibber
Union LLC, Defendant, represented by Henry Mark Stichel, Gohn
Hankey Stichel & Berlage LLP & Robert J. Schuckit, Schuckit &
Williams & Fudge, Inc., Defendant, represented by Bradley
Todd Canter, The Law Offices of Ronald S Canter LLC.
Mason University, Defendant, represented by Susanne Harris
Carnell, Lorenger and Carnell PLC.
J. MESSITTE, District Judge.
Pro se plaintiff Troy Alston has brought suit
against five Defendants in connection with a university class
enrollment fee he says he does not owe. Against Defendants
George Mason University ("GMU"), which offered the
class, and Williams & Fudge, Inc. ("W&F"), an
alleged debt collector, he says that W&F's attempt to
collect his purported $162 "delinquent" debt to GMU
violated the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, Â§ 14-202
and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, Â§ 13-301. Against
W&F only, Alston also brings a claim under the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. Â§
1692e. Against three credit reporting agencies, Experian
Information Solutions, Inc. ("Experian"), Trans
Union LLC ("Trans Union"), and Equifax Information
Services LLC ("Equifax"), Alston alleges that their
reporting that this "debt" was delinquent as well
as subsequent conduct violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act
("FRCA") 15 U.S.C. Â§ 1681 et seq.
Defendants have moved to dismiss the suit: GMU, Experian, and
Trans Union. For the reasons that follow, the Court will
GRANT GMU's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction,
and will DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Alston's claims against
it. The Court will also GRANT the Motions to Dismiss of
Experian and Trans Union, and DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE all
claims against them.
states in his Amended Complaint that in the fall or winter of
2012, he enrolled in a course at George Mason University, in
Fairfax, Virginia, but then withdrew from the course. Am.
Compl. Â¶ 6. Because his withdrawal was purportedly
"timely, " GMU was supposed to forego the course
enrollment fee. Id. Â¶Â¶ 7, 14.
at some point in 2014, Defendant W&F, which Alston describes
as a "debt collector that focuses its business in the
recovery of education-related receivables, "
id. Â¶ 3, began to contact him regarding his
"delinquent" GMU debt, which W&F stated was $162.
Id. Â¶ 8. Alston disputes that this was the amount of
the class enrollment fee, which he says was $125, not $162.
Id. Â¶ 14. When Alston contacted W&F to question its
"legal authority" to collect this debt at all, the
company's representative purportedly told him: "[the
debt's] reporting on your credit so obviously we have
some type of authority to do something." The
representative also purportedly indicated that the debt was
reported by three credit reporting agencies-Defendants Trans
Union, Experian, and Equifax. Id. Â¶ 10.
states that, after unsuccessfully disputing the debt with
W&F, he "submitted his dispute" to the three credit
reporting agency Defendants. Id. Â¶ 12. He
"explained that he did not owe the debt to GMU because
he cancelled his enrollment in time to have the enrollment
fee dropped, " and that the class enrollment fee was
$125, not $162. Id . Â¶Â¶ 13-14. Equifax responded by
"sending Plaintiff its reinvestigation results, which
stated that the collection account was deleted from his
Equifax credit file." Id. Â¶ 16. While Alston
notes that both Experian and Trans Union deleted the
"delinquency" from his credit report, neither is
alleged to have sent him the results of their
reinvestigation. Id. Â¶ 18. As to all three credit
reporting agencies, Alston alleges that the reinvestigation
they conducted in response to his dispute was "nothing
more than forwarding notice of Plaintiff's dispute to W&F
and blindly accepting and reporting the results of the W&F
investigation results." Id. Â¶Â¶ 17, 19.
says Alston, "upon information and belief, the
Defendants provided inaccurate and/or incomplete credit
reports to numerous entities, including but not limited to:
1st Financial Bank USA, credits and/or debt collectors
associated with his student loans." Id. Â¶ 20.
basis, Alston brings his suit. The first three counts are
against W&F for attempting to collect on the disputed $162
class enrollment fee debt: (1) Count 1, Violation of the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C.
Â§ 1692e; (2) Count 2, Violation of the Maryland Consumer Debt
Collection Act, Â§ 14-202; and (3) Count 3, Violation of the
Maryland Consumer Protection Act, Â§ 13-301. He also brings
Counts 2 and 3 against GMU, based on the theory that
respondeat superior makes GMU liable for the actions
of its agent, W&F, rather than for any specific debt
collection activity by the University.
Count 4, Violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act
("FCRA"), Alston alleges that the three credit
reporting agencies failed to employ reasonable procedures to
ensure maximum accuracy in their credit reports, failed to
conduct a reasonable reinvestigation to determine whether the
disputed information was accurate, and failed to notify him
of the results of the reinvestigation as required by 15
U.S.C. Â§ 1681i(a).
originally filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince
George's County, ECF No. 2, but Trans Union removed the
case to this Court in a timely fashion, ECF No. 1, which
brought the entire case to federal court. After Experian
filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, ECF
No. 25, Alston did not respond but instead filed an Amended
Complaint. ECF No. 27. While both W&F and Equifax filed
Answers to Alston's Amended Complaint, ECF Nos. 15, 30,
Experian and Trans Union filed Motions to Dismiss. ECF Nos.
32, 37. Alston filed a Response to both Trans Union's and
Experian's Motions to Dismiss. ECF Nos. 40, 45. Trans
Union and Experian both filed replies. ECF Nos. 43, 45.
filed a Motion for Order of Default as to GMU, ECF No. 36,
which opposed the motion and filed its own Motion to Dismiss
on the basis that it had never been properly served. ECF No.
51. GMU also cited a number of other grounds for dismissal,
including lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of