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Letren v. Trans Union, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 2, 2017

NEIL F. LETREN, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
TRANS UNION, LLC, Defendant.


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff 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)[1] and is subject to FCRA. Joint Statement of Undisputed Facts, ECF No. 68 at 1.

         According 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 Bankruptcy.”).

         In 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[2] was updated to reflect the Chase Account as “foreclosure collateral sold.” ECF No. 78-4 at 2 (September 8, 2014 Trans Union Consumer Disclosure).

         On 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.

         Beginning 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).

         In 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         According 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.

         B. Procedural Background

         On 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         Defendant 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.

         Although 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 plaintiffs.”).


         “The 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, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         When a 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 that motion.Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Defendant's Motion ...

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