United States District Court, D. Maryland
CANDACE ALSTON, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES, LLC, EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC, TRANSUNION, LLC, and WELLS FARGO BANK, NAT'L ASSOC, Defendants.
THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Candace Alston has filed a class action complaint alleging
violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act
("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. §§1681-1681x (2012).
Pending before the Court are Motions to Dismiss filed by each
of the four Defendants, Equifax Information Services, Inc.
("Equifax"), Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
("Experian"), Trans Union, LLC ("Trans
Union"), and Wells Fargo Bank, Nat'l Assoc.
("Wells Fargo"). Having reviewed the complaint and
the briefs, the Court finds no hearing necessary.
See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth
below, the Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED.
November 12, 2010, Alston obtained a mortgage from Monarch
Bank ("Monarch") to purchase property located at
7929 Mandan Road in Greenbelt, Maryland. Although Wells Fargo
informed her that it had acquired the servicing and ownership
of the loan, the promissory note was endorsed to Bank of
America. Skeptical of Wells Fargo's claims, Alston sent
her mortgage payments to Monarch, but Monarch did not process
her payments, with one exception. In August 2011, Alston sent
Monarch a cashier's check for $6, 492.24, representing
her outstanding mortgage balance. Monarch endorsed the check
and forwarded it to Wells Fargo.
this period, Wells Fargo reported Alston's mortgage
account as delinquent, with the exception of August 2011,
which it reported as "paid." Am. Compl. ¶ 16,
ECF No. 26. The following month, September 2011, Wells Fargo
reported the account as 180 days delinquent. Wells Fargo
continued to report the account in this manner through the
beginning of 2014.
in January 2011, Alston began to dispute Wells Fargo's
right to service her loan. In July 2011, she began to dispute
Wells Fargo's reporting of her mortgage as past due.
These disputes formed the basis of Alston v. Wells
Fargo, No. TDC-13-3147, in which, as relevant here,
Alston sued Wells Fargo for an FCRA violation of 15 U.S.C.
§ 1681s-2. On February 26, 2016, this Court granted
summary judgment to Wells Fargo on that claim. Alston bases
her present claims against Wells Fargo on the same facts that
served as the basis for that prior lawsuit.
during this period, Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union relied
on and repeated Wells Fargo's reporting on Alston's
mortgage account. Beginning in 2011, Alston filed a series of
disputes with each of these consumer reporting agencies
("CRAs"), and she continued to dispute their
reporting of the Wells Fargo mortgage account into 2015.
Alston's 2011 and 2012 disputes with Equifax about the
Wells Fargo mortgage formed part of the basis for Alston
v. Equifax, No. TDC-13-1230, in which, as relevant here,
Alston sued Equifax for FCRA violations of various
subsections of 15 U.S.C. § 1681e and § 1681L On
September 21, 2016, this Court granted summary judgment to
Equifax on those claims.
2011 to 2013 disputes with Trans Union and Experian about the
Wells Fargo mortgage are the basis for another pending case
in this Court, Alston v. Trans Union and Experian,
No. TDC-14-1180, in which Alston alleges violations of
various subsections of § 1681e and § 1681i. That
case has been in discovery since May 13, 2014. Alston also
used her 2011 to 2013 disputes with Experian, as well as an
April 2014 dispute, as the basis for Alston, et al. v.
Experian, No. TDC-14-3957, in which Alston asserted
additional claims under the FCRA and also sought to proceed
with her claims as a class action. On March 3, 2016, this
Court dismissed Alston's claims in that case as barred by
the doctrine of claim splitting. Alston bases her present
lawsuit on the CRAs' continued reporting in 2014 and 2015
of the Wells Fargo mortgage account as delinquent and their
responses to her continued disputes of that reporting.
September 14, 2015, Alston filed this suit pro se
against Wells Fargo, Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union in
the Circuit Court of Maryland for Prince George's County,
alleging violations of various subsections of the FCRA.
Defendants removed the action to this Court on November
2, 2015. On November 24, 2015, in response to
Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants, Alston amended her
Complaint, this time through counsel. Alston styles her
Amended Complaint as a class action and alleges five causes
of action: (1) a violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b) by
Wells Fargo; (2) a violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(a) by
Wells Fargo and Equifax; (3) a violation of 15 U.S.C. §
1681e(b) by Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union; (4) a
violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a) by Equifax, Experian,
and Trans Union; and (5) a class action claim for a violation
of 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(b) by Equifax and Trans Union. Each
Defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Alston has filed responsive
briefing to each Motion. As part of her Response to Trans
Union's Motion to Dismiss, Alston filed a Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment as to her claims against Trans
defeat a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to
state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible
when the facts pleaded allow "the Court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Id. Legal conclusions or
conclusory statements do not suffice. Id. The Court
must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual
allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the
factual allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268
(1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm 'rs of Davidson
Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).
Wells Fargo and Equifax
Fargo urges dismissal of Alston's present claims based on
the doctrine of claim splitting, arguing that the claims she
raises in this case all could have been asserted in
Alston v. Wells Fargo, No. TDC-13-3147. Equifax
urges dismissal of Alston's individual and class claims
on the theory that she cannot collaterally attack the
validity of the Wells Fargo mortgage through an FCRA claim
and further seeks dismissal of the class claim based on
Alston's failure to satisfy various requirements of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Although Equifax does not
expressly argue that Alston's present claims are
duplicative of her prior litigation, it does assert that
"the only difference between [Alston's] First Case
and this case is that [Alston] added class allegations and