United States District Court, D. Maryland
CANDACE E. ALSTON, Plaintiff,
TRANSUNION, LLC and EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC., Defendants.
THEODORE D. CHUANG United States District Judge.
Candace E. Alston has filed suit under the Fair Credit
Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. §§
1681-1681x (2012), against Defendants Transunion, LLC
("Transunion") and Experian Information Solutions,
Inc. ("Experian") based on their reporting of
Alston's Wells Fargo mortgage account as delinquent and
their allegedly unreasonable reinvestigation into that
account's status in response to Alston's disputes.
Pending before the Court is Defendants' Joint Motion for
Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the submitted materials,
the Court finds no hearing necessary. See D. Md.
Local R. 105.6 (2016). For the reasons set forth below,
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
factual background of this case is set forth in detail in the
Court's Memorandum Opinion denying Alston's Motion
for a Preliminary Injunction and her Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment. See Alston v. Transunion, No.
TDC-14-1180, 2014 WL 6388338 at *l-6 (D. Md. Nov. 13, 2014).
Additional facts and procedural history are provided below as
Complaint, Alston alleges that Defendants each erroneously
relied "on the bare, unsupported statements of Wells
Fargo" when reporting Alston's mortgage account as
delinquent and continued to rely solely on Wells Fargo's
information despite disputes that Alston filed with both
credit reporting agencies ("CRAs") challenging the
accuracy of that information. Compl. ¶ 19, ECF No. 2.
Based on these assertions, Alston claims that Transunion and
Experian violated two provisions of the FCRA: 15 U.S.C.
§ 1681e(b) and 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)(1).
and Experian now seek summary judgment on the grounds that
Alston's claims fail under the doctrine of collateral
estoppel, because this Court has previously ruled that the
reporting of Alston's Wells Fargo account was accurate,
such that Alston's FCRA claims necessarily fail because
inaccuracy of credit report information is an element of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the Court grants
summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the
moving party 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). In assessing the Motion, the Court must
view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 411 U.S. 242, 255
nonmoving party has the burden to show a genuine dispute of
material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). "A
material fact is one that might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law." Spriggs v. Diamond
Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Anderson, Ml U.S. at 248) (internal quotation marks
omitted). A dispute of material fact is only
"genuine" if sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party exists for the trier of fact to return a
verdict for that party. Anderson, Ml U.S. at 248-49.
estoppel, also known as issue preclusion, is a subset of the
doctrine of res judicata. In Re Microsoft Corp. Antitrust
Litig., 355 F.3d 322, 326 (4th Cir. 2004). Res
judicata mandates that "once a matter-whether a
claim, an issue, or a fact-has been determined by a court as
the basis for a judgment, a party against whom the claim,
issue, or fact was resolved cannot relitigate the
matter." Id. at 325. In particular, collateral
estoppel provides that a party may not relitigate an issue
previously resolved in litigation if the following
requirements are satisfied: (1) the issue in the pending
litigation is the same as the one previously litigated, (2)
the issue was actually resolved in the prior litigation, (3)
the issue resolved was necessary to the judgment in the prior
proceeding, (4) the judgment in the prior proceeding is final
and valid, and (5) the party to be estopped had a full and
fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior
proceeding. Id. at 326. Collateral estoppel bars
relitigation of a previously decided issue "even if the
issue recurs in the context of a different claim."
Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008).
Defendants contend that all of these requirements are
satisfied as to a critical issue for Alston's present
claims: whether the reporting of Alston's Wells Fargo
mortgage account as delinquent was accurate. They argue that
Alston has already litigated and lost on the question of
accuracy as part of a related case, Alston v. Wells
Fargo, No. TDC-13-3147, in which Alston alleged that
Wells Fargo violated the FCRA by inaccurately reporting to
CRAs such as Transunion and Experian that her mortgage
account was delinquent. In that case, this Court granted
summary judgment to Wells Fargo after finding that Wells
Fargo's reports that Alston's mortgage account was
delinquent were accurate. Alston v. Wells Fargo, No.
TDC-13-3147, 2016 WL 816733 at *10 (D. Md. Feb. 26, 2016)
("[T]he information that Wells Fargo provided to credit
reporting agencies was not 'inaccurate.'").
Alston's appeal of this Court's grant of summary
judgment was dismissed on March 14, 2017.
correctly argue that all five elements of collateral estoppel
have been satisfied. In Wells Fargo, this Court
squarely decided that Wells Fargo's reporting of
Alston's mortgage account as delinquent was accurate
because the evidence established that Wells Fargo was
entitled to collect payments from Alston during the period of
reported delinquency and because, during that period, Alston
made no legal payments on the mortgage. Wells Fargo,
2016 WL 816733 at *9 ("Because none of the payments that
Alston made were legally valid, Wells Fargo's reporting
of that account as delinquent. . . was completely
accurate."). Thus, the issue of the accuracy of the
credit reporting was previously litigated and resolved. In
Wells Fargo, the resolution of the question of
accuracy was necessary to this Court's determination that
Wells Fargo was entitled to summary judgment. Id. at
*10. The judgment in that case ...