United States District Court, D. Maryland
NEIL F. LETREN, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
TRANS UNION, LLC, Defendant.
Xinis United States District Judge
in this Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) action
is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 66)
and Plaintiff's partial motion for summary judgment (ECF
No. 71). The issues are fully briefed, and the Court now
rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is
necessary. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's
motion is granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied.
Neil F. Letren (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
against Defendant Trans Union, LLC (“Trans Union”
or “Defendant”) for its alleged violation of the
Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C.
§ 1681, et seq. Trans Union is a consumer
reporting agency (“CRA”), as defined in 15 U.S.C
§ 1681 a(f) and is subject to FCRA. Joint Statement of
Undisputed Facts, ECF No. 68 at 1.
to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff “obtained several
mortgage loans in 2007, including mortgage loans being
reported to his credit reports by [JPMorgan] Chase [Bank,
N.A.]. . . .” (the “Chase Account”). ECF
No. 22 at 5; see also ECF No. 22 at 5 (alleging the
Trans Union credit report erroneously noted “the
discharged Chase mortgage account as due and owing”);
ECF No. 22 at 6 (“Both the PNC and Chase accounts were
opened in 2007 and would have been included in the March 2010
September of 2008, Plaintiff's property was foreclosed
upon. ECF No. 78-16 at 2; see also ECF No. 78-1 at
40 (listing four foreclosure proceedings). On September 29,
2008, Plaintiff's Trans Union consumer
disclosure was updated to reflect the Chase Account
as “foreclosure collateral sold.” ECF No. 78-4 at
2 (September 8, 2014 Trans Union Consumer Disclosure).
December 1, 2009, Plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
ECF No. 68 at 1; see also In re: Letren, Case No.
09-33378, (Bankr. D. Md. Dec. 1, 2009)
(“Plaintiff's Bankruptcy Petition”).
Plaintiff's bankruptcy petition included a Schedule F of
accounts to be discharged in the bankruptcy and provided the
names, mailing addresses, and last four digits of the account
numbers of all entities holding unsecured claims without
priority against the debtor. ECF No. 78-10 at 2; ECF No. 78-1
at 30. The Schedule F listed five accounts, including three
mortgage deficiencies from American Home Mortgage Acceptance,
Aurora Loan Services, and National City Mortgage. ECF No.
78-1 at 30; ECF No. 78-10 at 2. The Chase Account was not
listed on the Schedule F. ECF No. 78-10 at 2.
in March 2010, after Trans Union received notice of
Plaintiff's bankruptcy filing, it reported the Chase
Account as having been included in bankruptcy. ECF No. 78-15
at 3. On January 27, 2011, the Bankruptcy Court entered an
Order of Discharge for Plaintiff's bankruptcy petition.
In re: Letren, Case No. 09-33378, ECF No. 40 (Bankr.
D. Md. Dec. 1, 2009).
September of 2013, Plaintiff obtained his Trans Union credit
file. ECF No. 78-16 at 3. The report showed that the Chase
Account had a balance of $0.00 as of October 6, 2008 with
former terms of $4, 222 due monthly and the status of the
account was “CBL: Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.” ECF No.
78-15 at 9-11; see also ECF No. 78-16 at 3.
September 16, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a dispute to Trans
Union via mail in which he claimed “the [Chase] Account
should be deleted from his credit file because Chase could
not adequately demonstrate that it was a legal holder of the
note.” ECF No. 68 at 2; see also ECF No. 78-15
at 8; ECF No. 78-16 at 3. Trans Union investigated
Plaintiff's claims by contacting Chase through the
Automated Consumer Dispute Verification (“ACDV”)
process, stating that Plaintiff claims he is “not
liable for account (i.e. ex-spouse, business)” and
asking that they “provide complete ID and ECOA
code.” ECF No. 78-15 at 3, 8. Chase responded by
instructing Trans Union to remove the bankruptcy notations on
the Account, and change the status from “account
included in bankruptcy” to “120 days past due,
” as well as the remark from “CBL: Chapter 7
Bankruptcy” to “Foreclosure Collateral
Sold.” ECF No. 78-15 at 3; ECF No. 78-15 at 9. The
investigation results were mailed to Plaintiff on October 10,
2013, and reflected the two changes from Chase. ECF No. 68 at
2; ECF No. 78-16 at 3.
October 23, 2013, Plaintiff submitted another dispute to
Trans Union via mail in which he claimed that the Chase
Account was discharged in his 2009 bankruptcy but was not
reporting as such. ECF No. 68 at 2. Plaintiff also requested
that Trans Union provide a description of the steps of its
investigation. ECF No. 78-16 at 4. Trans Union manually
updated the Chase Account to indicate that it was included in
Plaintiff's bankruptcy as Plaintiff claimed, changing the
status from “account 120 days past due” to
“account included in bankruptcy” and the remark
from “foreclosure collateral sold” to
“Chapter 7 bankruptcy.” ECF No. 68 at 2; ECF No.
78-15 at 13. Trans Union sent Plaintiff the results of its
investigation on or about October 23, 2013 reflecting these
changes, ECF No. 68 at 2, but did not respond to
Plaintiff's request for a description of the
investigation. ECF No. 78-16 at 4.
February 19, 2014, Plaintiff again mailed a dispute letter to
Trans Union, this time claiming that the Chase Account was a
duplicate of his “Homeward mortgage account.” ECF
No. 68 at 2. On February 19, 2014, Trans Union contacted
Chase through the ACDV process, stating that Plaintiff
“claims inaccurate information” with his comment
“duplicate” and asking that Chase “provide
or confirm complete ID and verify account information.”
ECF No. 78-15 at 4; ECF No. 78-15 at 29. Chase responded
again instructing Trans Union to remove the bankruptcy
notations on the Account, changing the status back to
“120 days past due” and the remark to
“foreclosure collateral sold.” ECF No. 78-15 at
3-4; see also ECF No. 78-15 at 30-31. Trans Union
sent Plaintiff the results of its investigation on March 19,
2014 with those changes. ECF No. 68 at 2.
August 16, 2014, Plaintiff submitted his last dispute to
Trans Union online, again claiming that “the Chase
Account should be reported as discharged in bankruptcy and
the status should not be 120 days past due.” ECF No. 68
at 3; ECF No. 78-15 at 4; ECF No. 78-15 at 34. In response to
Trans Union's ACDV communication, Chase again verified
the Chase Account's status of “120 days past
due” and remark of “foreclosure collateral
sold.” ECF No. 78-15 at 34-36.
about September 8, 2014, Plaintiff requested from Trans Union
a copy of his consumer disclosure, which Trans Union
provided. ECF No. 68 at 3. The consumer disclosure included
the Chase Account with a status of “120 days past due,
” a remark of “foreclosure collateral sold,
” a $0 balance, and a closed date of September 8, 2008.
ECF No. 68 at 3; ECF No. 78-4 at 2. In April 2015, the Chase
Account was automatically removed from Plaintiff's credit
file because the account had been closed for seven years. ECF
No. 78-15 at 4.
to the Plaintiff, in 2013 and 2014, he applied for and was
denied credit from ten financial institutions, including
mortgage applications with LoanDepot, Quicken Loans, Fulton
Mortgage, BB&T, 1st Step Financial, George Mason
Mortgage, Virginia Heritage Bank, and two credit card
applications with Barclays Bank and Capital One Bank. ECF No.
78-8 at 32-36. For Plaintiff's credit application to
Quicken Loans, Credco was the consumer reporting agency and
Experian provided the credit score. ECF No. 78-7 at 2-3.
Plaintiff proffers no correspondence for the other nine
applications nor any evidence indicating why his credit
applications were denied, the consumer reporting agency who
furnished the consumer report, or the provider of the credit
score. See ECF No. 78-8 at 36.
October 6, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Circuit
Court for Montgomery County against three CRA's-Experian
Information Solutions, Inc., Equifax Information Services,
LLC, and Trans Union. ECF No. 2. On November 3, 2015,
Defendants timely removed the action to this Court based on
federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331. ECF No. 1.
December 18, 2015, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint,
claiming Defendant Trans Union violated 15 U.S.C. §
1681e(b) (Count I and II) and 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)
(Count III and IV) of the FCRA. ECF No. 22. The claims
against two defendants have since been dismissed, and the
only remaining defendant is Trans Union. The Amended
Complaint alleges Trans Union was inaccurately reporting the
Chase Account as due and owing rather than as having been
discharged in his 2009 bankruptcy. ECF No. 22 at 5, 8.
Plaintiff further averred in the Amended Complaint that when
he disputed the Account with Trans Union, Trans Union failed
to perform a reasonable investigation and continued to report
the Chase Account inaccurately, in violation of the FCRA. ECF
No. 22 at 6. Plaintiff seeks statutory and punitive damages,
and “a permanent injunction . . . requiring Defendants
to adopt reporting procedures and reinvestigation practices
in accord with the requirements of the FCRA.” ECF No.
22 at 16-17. He also seeks attorney's fees. Id.
January 22, 2016, the Court entered a Scheduling Order, which
set discovery deadlines. ECF No. 33 at 4. On January 26,
2016, Trans Union served its requests for admission on
Plaintiff. ECF No. 77 at 1. Plaintiff's responses were
due on February 29, 2016. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
36(a)(3). The parties, however, agreed to extend
Plaintiff's deadline by two weeks until March 14, 2016.
ECF No. 77 at 1. Plaintiff served his responses to the
requests for admission (the “Responses”) on or
about March 28, 2016, over two weeks past the agreed-upon due
date, without ever requesting an additional extension. ECF
No. 77 at 1. The Responses were not signed by Plaintiff's
counsel. ECF No. 77 at 1.
filed its motion for summary judgment on July 29, 2016, in
part asserting that Plaintiff's untimely responses to
Defendant's request for admissions entitled Defendant to
summary judgment. ECF No. 66. On August 19, 2016, Plaintiff
responded and filed a partial cross-motion for summary
judgment on the issue of inaccuracy, asserting that Trans
Union has failed to offer any admissible evidence that
Plaintiff owed a debt to Chase. ECF No. 73 at 1-2. On
September 6, 2016, Plaintiff requested leave to file a motion
to withdraw his admissions. ECF No. 77.
Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint as a putative class
action, a class has not been certified, and the only claims
before the Court are the individual claims of Plaintiff.
Thus, the Court will restrict its decision in this matter to
the Plaintiff's individual claims. See e.g.,
Boatright v. Aegis Def. Servs., LLC, 938 F.Supp.2d
602, 611 (E.D. Va. 2013) (citing Lusardi v. Xerox
Corp., 975 F.2d 964, 974-75 (3d Cir. 1992)) (“When
the claims of named plaintiffs become no longer justiciable
before class certification, the purported class action must
be dismissed as moot.”); Cantley v. W. Virginia
Reg'l Jail & Corr. Facility Auth., No. CIV.A.
3:09-0758, 2013 WL 5531855, at *1 (S.D. W.Va. Oct. 4, 2013),
aff'd on other grounds, 771 F.3d 201 (4th Cir.
2014) (quoting Wooden v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. Sys.
of Ga., 247 F.3d 1262, 1289 (11th Cir. 2001))
(“The district court is not required to resolve
Plaintiff's class certification request before resolving
a challenge to Plaintiff's individual claim. If the
district court were to resolve a summary judgment in
Defendants' favor and in so doing dismiss Plaintiff's
individual claim before ruling on class certification, then
Plaintiff would not be an appropriate class
representative.” (alterations omitted)); cf. Grice
v. Colvin, No. GJH-14-1082, 2016 WL 1065806, at *4 (D.
Md. Mar. 14, 2016) (citing Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S.
393, 399 (1975)) (“Before a class is certified under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, the class has not
obtained legal status independent of the individual named
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing predecessor to current Rule
56(a)). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate
the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact.
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157
(1970). If sufficient evidence exists for a reasonable jury
to render a verdict in favor of the party opposing the
motion, then a genuine dispute of material fact is presented
and summary judgment should be denied. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). However,
the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in
support of the [opposing party's] position” is
insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.
Id. at 252. The facts themselves, and the inferences
to be drawn from the underlying facts, must be viewed in the
light most favorable to the opposing party, Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Iko v.
Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008), who may not
rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading but
instead must, by affidavit or other evidentiary showing, set
out specific facts showing a genuine dispute for trial,
court is called upon to decide cross-motions for summary
judgment, it must review each motion separately on its own
merits to decide whether either party deserves judgment as a
matter of law. Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516,
523 (4th Cir. 2003). Thus, as with any motion for summary
judgment, the court must review the facts and reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing
Defendant's Motion ...