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 motions for sanctions pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 11 (ECF No. 87) and for sanctions
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, and
the inherent powers of the Court (ECF No. 88). The issues are
fully briefed, and the Court held a hearing on May 16, 2017,
a telephonically-recorded status conference on June 12, 2017,
and a second hearing on July 27, 2017. ECF Nos. 95, 107, 111.
For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion for
sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and the
inherent powers of the Court is granted. Any available relief
under § 1927 and § 1681 would duplicate the relief
granted under Rule 11 and accordingly is denied as
civil action stems from a mortgage loan reported by J.P.
Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”) to
Plaintiff's Trans Union credit report.
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 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
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.
Plaintiff proceeded to dispute the accuracy of the report
with Trans Union, first claiming on September 16, 2013 that
“the [Chase] Account should be deleted because Chase
could not adequately demonstrate that it was the legal holder
of the note.” ECF No. 68 at 2; see also ECF
No. 78-15 at 8; ECF No. 78-16 at 3. Then, in a series of
written disputes with Trans Union over the next eleven
months, Plaintiff shifted his allegation of the
error-claiming on October 23, 2013 that the Chase Account was
discharged in 2009 bankruptcy; on February 19, 2014 that the
Chase Account was a “duplicate of his Homeward Mortgage
Account”; and finally, on February 19, 2014, that the
Chase Account should be reported as discharged in bankruptcy
and not past due. 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.
17, 2015, Letren, and co-plaintiff Candice Alston filed an
amended class action complaint through counsel Kevin Chapple
(“Chapple”) against Experian. See Letren v.
Experian Information Solutions, Inc., No.
8:14-cv-03957-TDC (D. Md.). The allegations against Experian
Information Solutions, Inc. rely in part on the misreporting
of Letren's Chase Account- claiming that the Chase
Account, among other mortgage accounts, was erroneously
reported as due and owing and not in bankruptcy. The Amended
Complaint also contends the Chase Account was a duplicate of
an account reported by Homeward Residential. See Letren
v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., ECF No. 15 at 5
n.3. As to the purported error in Ms. Alston's consumer
report, she explicitly maintained that she did not have a
mortgage account with Wells Fargo and that Wells Fargo did
not own or service the account. Id. at 2.
The Instant Civil Action
three months later, on October 6, 2015, Plaintiff Neil F.
Letren (“Plaintiff” or “Letren”),
proceeding pro se, filed a class action complaint
against three consumer reporting agency
(“CRA's”)-Experian Information Solutions,
Inc., Equifax Information Services, LLC, and Trans Union for
alleged violations of the FCRA. ECF No. 2.
Complaint asserts that Trans Union falsely reported the Chase
Account as due and owing when the Chase Account was
discharged in bankruptcy. The Complaint provides no
allegations of a duplicate account-specifically, no
allegations involving Homeward Residential, or a third
mortgage loan company, AHMA.
then entered his appearance in the instant action for Letren
on November 16, 2015. ECF No. 12. Several weeks later,
Chapple filed on behalf of Plaintiff an amended class action
complaint (the “Amended Complaint”). ECF No. 22.
The Amended Complaint maintained both class and individual
claims, alleging that 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. Prior to
filing the Amended Complaint, Chapple did no due diligence on
whether class claims were viable. Nor did Chapple timely
pursue written discovery on the class allegations. Further,
Chapple did nothing to prepare Letren as to the
responsibilities of a named plaintiff in a class case, nor is
there any evidence that Chapple has any experience as class
regard to Plaintiff's individual claims, the Amended
Complaint specifically alleged that the Chase Account not
only existed as of 2007, but was discharged in his 2009
bankruptcy. The Amended Complaint unambiguously faults Trans
Union for inaccurately reporting the Chase Account as due and
owing instead of discharged in bankruptcy. See ECF
No. 22 at 5, 8. The Amended Complaint further complained that
Trans Union failed to perform a reasonable investigation into
Letren's disputes and instead continued to report the
Chase Account inaccurately. ECF No. 22 at 6. Importantly, at
no place in the original Complaint, the Amended Complaint, or
for several months thereafter in discovery did Plaintiff deny
the Chase Account's existence. Rather, his main
contention was that had Trans Union done its due diligence in
reviewing Letren's bankruptcy petition, it should have
reported the Chase Account as discharged rather than due and
owing. See generally ECF No. 22 at 4.
the beginning of this case, Trans Union vigorously disputed
the veracity of Plaintiff's claims. Repeatedly, Trans
Union pressed Plaintiff, through counsel, for any documentary
evidence demonstrating that the Chase Account had been
discharged in bankruptcy. Trans Union was either met with
silence or marginally comprehensible excuses. See
generally ECF Nos. 88-2 to 88-8. At no point did Letren
or his attorney, Chapple, produce any documentary proof
supporting Plaintiff's allegations.
Letren's failure to provide any evidentiary support for
his claims, Trans Union once again, on January 28, 2016,
emphasized that Plaintiff's position is specious and that
he should dismiss his case rather than face a motion for
sanctions. See ECF No. 88-6. Met once again with
silence, on March 1, 2016, Trans Union formally notified
Letren in writing that pursuant to Rule 11, it would seek
sanctions should Letren refuse to dismiss his case within
twenty-one days from receipt of the letter. ECF No. 88-7 at
2. Letren once again refused to dismiss his case.
June of 2016, Letren changed his story in his deposition.
Letren testified that he never had a Chase Account and the
real error was Trans Union reporting the account at all. ECF
No. 78-8 at 23, 37. Letren and Chapple maintained this new
position despite Trans Union having proof that Chase had
repeatedly verified the existence of the mortgage account and
that it had been closed prior to Letren filing for
bankruptcy. See ECF No. 78-15 at 2-38.
failed settlement conference where Trans Union again hoped to
impress upon Letren the need to dismiss his action, Trans
Union moved for summary judgment, arguing inter alia
that Trans Union had accurately reported the Chase Account as
due and owing. See generally ECF No. 66. Defendant
further moved for summary judgment as to the class
allegations because Plaintiff had done nothing to advance
those claims. Id. Plaintiff not only filed a formal
opposition, but separately cross-moved for summary judgment.
In both pleadings, Plaintiff persisted in his new argument