United States District Court, D. Maryland
AINSWORTH C. JACKSON, Plaintiff, pro se
EARLY WARNING, et. al. Defendants.
J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
C. Jackson (Jackson), pro se, has sued Early Warning
Services, LLC (Early Warning), Equifax Information Services,
LLC (Equifax), Trans Union, LLC (Trans Union), and Experian
Information Solutions, Inc. (Experian). His Original
Complaint contended that Defendants, all consumer reporting
agencies (CRAs), had violated provisions of the Fair Credit
Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et
seq., the Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. §
1601, et seq., the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA),
15 U.S.C. § 1666, et seq., the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692,
et seq., the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act
(MCDCA), Md. Code Ann., Com. Law, § 14-201, et
seq., and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA),
Md. Code Ann., Com. Law § 13-101, et seq. He
also sued for common law defamation.
an initial round of Motions to Dismiss for failure to state a
claim, the Court, on February 5, 2016, issued a Memorandum
Order and Opinion dismissing with prejudice all of
Jackson's claims except those based on the FCRA and
defamation. See Mem. Op. and Order, ECF Nos. 41, 42.
The Court, however, granted Jackson an opportunity to file an
Amended Complaint to fortify his FCRA and defamations claims
with appropriately specific factual allegations. See
Mem Op. at 6-7. Jackson subsequently filed a Motion in
Response to the Court's Order, ECF No. 43, which the
Court treated as a Supplement to the Complaint. See
Mem. Order, ECF No. 44. Trans Union thereafter filed an
answer, ECF No. 45, Early Warning filed a Renewed Motion to
Dismiss or, in the alternative, a Motion for Summary
Judgment, ECF No. 46, and both Equifax and Experian filed
Motions to Dismiss, ECF Nos. 47, 48. Jackson filed a single
response in opposition, ECF No. 50, and Early Warning,
Equifax, and Experian each filed replies, ECF Nos. 52, 53,
following reasons, Trans Union's,  Early
Warning's, Equifax's, and Experian's Motions to
Dismiss (ECF Nos. 33, 46, 47, and 48) are GRANTED.
Original and Supplemental Complaints vaguely assert that
Defendants failed to verify the accuracy of their reporting
with respect to certain of Jackson's credit accounts, and
that these failures negatively impacted his credit rating,
thus denying him the opportunity to open up a checking
account and obtain credit. See Compl., ECF No. 2;
Suppl. Compl, ECF No. 43. He seeks $25, 000 in damages.
See Compl. While the Complaints are largely devoid
of material factual allegations, the Court has been able to
glean certain basic facts from the filings submitted in
connection with the Motions to Dismiss.
are defined as “companies that collect information and
provide reports on consumers that are used to decide whether
to provide consumers credit, insurance, or employment, and
for other purposes.” Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau (CFPB), List of Consumer Reporting Agencies,
CFPB (January 14, 2015, 2:30 p.m.),
All Defendants collected information about Jackson's
credit history and reported that information to financial
institutions, and qualify as CRAs. See Compl. 2-3.
and 2014, Jackson says he reviewed credit reports prepared by
Defendants and identified eight inaccuracies. See
Suppl. Compl. 1-3; Pl.'s Mot. Strike as Sham and False
Defendant Experian's Mot. Dismiss (Pl.'s Mot. Strike
Experian's Mot.) 2-3, ECF No. 25; Pl.'s Mot. Strike
as Sham and False Defendant Early Warning's Mot. Dismiss
(Pl.'s Mot. Strike Early Warning' Mot.) 1-2, ECF No.
32; Pl.'s Mot. Strike as Sham and False Defendant Trans
Union's Mot. Dismiss (Pl.'s Mot. Strike Trans
Union's Mot.) 1-2, ECF No. 38. According to Jackson, the
reports included accounts that did not belong to him and
accounts that were closed and/or paid off in full.
See Suppl. Compl. 1-3. Jackson alleges that he
disputed some of these inaccuracies by contacting the
companies on numerous occasions and demanding that they
verify whether certain of his credit accounts were accurately
reported, and whether certain credit accounts listed in each
report even belonged to him. See Pl.'s Mot.
Strike Experian's Mot. 2-3; Pl.'s Mot. Strike Early
Warning's Mot. 1-2; Pl.'s Mot. Strike Trans
Union's Mot. 1-2. He does not indicate whether his
supposed contacts were purely oral, as opposed to written,
with whom he spoke, what he said, or when. Jackson says he
lodged some of these disputes with Defendants directly, and
took up others with the furnishers of the information.
See Suppl. Compl. According to Jackson, his credit
reports do not reflect these disputes. Id.
filed a Complaint on March 13, 2015 in the District Court of
Maryland for Prince George's County. See Compl.
The case was removed by Experian to this Court on April 28,
2015. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Jackson alleged that
Defendants violated a variety of state and federal statutes,
as well as committed common law defamation. See
Compl. In a Memorandum Order and Opinion, the Court
dismissed with prejudice five of Jackson's claims, but
gave him the opportunity to file an Amended Complaint with
respect to his FCRA and defamation claims.
Court held that the Complaint was insufficient to meet the
requirements of Rule 8 because it contained only
“unsupported, conclusory allegations.”
Id. Nevertheless, the Court was able to infer that
Jackson's FCRA allegations related to 15 U.S.C.
§§ 1681e(b), 1681g, and 1681i. Concluding that
Jackson had failed to plead his claims under § 1681e(b)
and § 1681i in sufficient detail, the Court instructed
him to re-plead those claims or face dismissal. Id.
at 10. Specifically, the Court held that “the Complaint
fail[ed] to specify what information was inaccurately
reported and by which Defendants.”
Id. (emphasis added). Additionally, the Court had
trouble discerning how, according to Jackson, Defendants had
violated § 1681g, and directed him to flesh out this
claim. Id. at 11. As for Jackson's defamation
claim, the Court held that, “the Complaint contains
only conclusory allegations that defamatory statements were
made at some point by one, possibly all the
Defendants.” Id. at 13. Accordingly, it
suggested that Jackson address this deficiency. Id.
March 3, 2016, Jackson filed a “Motion in Response to
Court's February 5, 2016 Order.” In a Memorandum
Order on March 18, 2016, the Court directed the Clerk to
docket this “Motion” as a Supplement to the
Complaint. Subsequently, Early Warning filed a Renewed Motion
to Dismiss or, in the alternative, a Motion for Summary
Judgment, ECF No. 46, and both Equifax and Experian filed
Motions to Dismiss, ECF Nos. 47, 48. Trans Union filed an
answer, ECF No. 45, to the Supplemental Complaint. However,
the Court will consider Trans Union's Motion to Dismiss
the Original Complaint, ECF No. 33.
four Defendants assert that the Complaint fails as a matter
of law to plead intelligible facts as required by Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) or to state a cause of action
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and should be dismissed for those
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) prescribes “liberal
pleading standards, ” requiring only that a plaintiff
submit a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that [he] is entitled to relief.” Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Supplementing Rule 8(a), Rule 8(d), however, states
that “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and
direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d).
survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead facts sufficient
to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). This standard requires “more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). Although a court will accept factual allegations
as true, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do
not suffice.” Id. Indeed, the court need not
accept legal conclusions couched as factual allegations or
“unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or
arguments.” E. Shore Markets, Inc. v. J.D.
Associates Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir.
2000). In the end, the complaint must contain factual
allegations sufficient to apprise a defendant of “what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal
quotations and citations omitted).
federal courts are obliged to liberally construe a pro
se litigant's claims in applying the above analysis,
this requirement “does not transform the court into an
advocate.” United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d
789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). The Fourth Circuit has noted that “[w]hile
pro se complaints may ‘represent the work of an
untutored hand requiring special judicial solicitude, ' a
district court is not required to recognize ‘obscure or
extravagant claims defying the most concerted efforts to
unravel them.'” Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting
Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277
(4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1088
challenge the sufficiency of Jackson's Complaint as a
matter of law. First, they argue that the Complaint should be
dismissed wholesale because it remains an impermissible
shotgun pleading, failing on its face to comply with the
requirements of Rule 8(a)(2). Def. Trans Union's Mot.
Dismiss, 4-5, ECF No. 33, Early Warning's Mot. Dismiss
5-6, ECF No. 46; Def. Equifax's Mot. Dismiss 4, ECF No.
47, Def. Experian's Mot. Dismiss 4, ECF No. 48. Further,
to the extent that the allegations in the Complaint are at
all intelligible, Defendants contend that they fail to state
a claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6). Def. Trans
Union's Mot. Dismiss 6-14, Def. Early Warning's Mot.
Dismiss 6-12, Def. Equifax's Mot. Dismiss 4-7, Def.
Experian's Mot. Dismiss 5-11. The Court ...