United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar United States District Judge.
Charles Green filed this suit pro se, contending
Defendant Southwest Credit Systems, L.P.
(“Southwest”), reported false information about
him to credit reporting agencies and thereby damaged his
credit rating, resulting in denials of credit. (Compl., ECF
No. 2.) The suit was filed in the District Court of Maryland
for Harford County and removed to this Court based upon
federal question jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1.) Pending before
the Court is Southwest's motion for judgment on the
pleadings (ECF No. 15), which has been opposed by Green (ECF
No. 17). No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). The motion will be granted.
Standard for Motion for Judgment on the
motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is
assessed under the same standard applicable to motions to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Walker v. Kelly,
589 F.3d 127, 139 (4th Cir. 2009). A complaint must contain
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists
“when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. An inference of a mere possibility of
misconduct is not sufficient to support a plausible claim.
Id. at 679. As the Twombly opinion stated,
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” 550 U.S. at 555.
“A pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.' . . . Nor
does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked
assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Although
when considering a motion to dismiss a court must accept as
true all factual allegations in the complaint, this principle
does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual
allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Allegations of the Complaint
complaint, Green avers Southwest reported false information
about him on his credit profile. (Compl. 1.) Green alleges he
learned Southwest “is attempting to collect funds for
an alleged account that plaintiff never owned, more
specifically a COMCAST cable bill from a false address @
[sic] 315 S. Highland Avenue in Baltimore City, an
address that has never truly been associated with the
plaintiff.” (Id. 3.) He further alleges he
faxed several documents to Southwest and asked it to delete
the false information, “but to no avail.”
has clearly articulated the legal bases on which his claim is
based. Green indicates his first count is brought for libel
and slander, his second count is brought for willful
noncompliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act
(“FCRA”), his third count is based upon
Southwest's liability under the FCRA as a furnisher of
information to credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”)
due to the unreasonableness of Southwest's procedures,
and his fourth count is predicated upon Southwest's
alleged malicious and willful intent to injure, which also
seems to invoke the FCRA's cause of action for willful
noncompliance. (Id. 2-3.)
FCRA's statutory scheme only permits imposition of
liability on a furnisher of incorrect information to a CRA if
the furnisher fails to carry out its statutory duties of
investigation and correction after the CRA has
provided notice to the furnisher of the consumer's
dispute. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b)(1)
(furnisher's duty to investigate and report results of
investigation arises “[a]fter receiving notice pursuant
to section 1681i(a)(2) . . . of a dispute with regard to the
completeness or accuracy of any information provided by a
person to a consumer reporting agency”); §
1681i(a)(2)(A) (requiring CRA to, within five business days,
provide notice of consumer's dispute to furnisher).
Green does not allege he filed a dispute with any CRA about
the account he now contends is wrongly attributed to him.
Thus, he did not trigger any duty by Southwest under the FCRA
to correct information reported to a CRA. Instead, he only
alleges he communicated directly with Southwest about the
allegedly false information. However, no private cause of
action under the FCRA exists as to a consumer's dispute
made directly with a furnisher of information to a CRA.
Duties as to accuracy and communication are generally imposed
upon furnishers of information under § 1681s-2(a), but
§ 1681s-2(c) specifically excludes any right of action
under § 1681n (willful noncompliance) and §
1681o (negligent noncompliance) for a failure to
comply with § 1681s-2(a). See Saunders v. Branch
Banking & Trust Co., 526 F.3d 142, 149 (4th Cir.
2008) (“FCRA explicitly bars private suits for
violations of § 1681s-2(a), but consumers can still
bring private suits for violations of §
1681s-2(b).”). Green's complaint fails to allege a
plausible claim for relief under the FCRA.
Green's claim of libel and slander, it is preempted by
§ 1681h(e), which only allows such a common-law claim
when (1) it is based upon “false information furnished
with malice or willful intent to injure such consumer”
and (2) the information is furnished pursuant to §
1681g, § 1681h, or § 1681m. See Ross v.
FDIC, 625 F.3d 808, 814 (4th Cir. 2010) (noting §
1681h(e) requires two-step inquiry). Sections 1681g and 1681h
pertain only to disclosures to consumers by CRAs. Plainly,
Green's claim does not relate to § 1681g or §
1681h since he does not allege Southwest is a CRA that made
disclosures to Green or any other consumer (nor would a
disclosure to Green about Green constitute defamation).
Section 1681m imposes certain requirements on a user of
credit reports who takes adverse action against a consumer;
the term “adverse action” is defined in §
1681a(k) as either “a denial or revocation of credit, a
change in the terms of an existing credit arrangement, or a
refusal to grant credit in substantially the amount or on
substantially the terms requested, ” as defined in
§ 1691(d)(6), or an adverse decision about insurance,
employment, licensure, or a consumer-initiated business
transaction. None of what Green alleges falls within §
1681m. Consequently, his defamation claim fails to state a
claim for relief.
complaint fails to state a claim for relief. It will be
dismissed without prejudice to his filing a future action
that satisfies the strict ...