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Alston v. Branch Banking & Trust Co.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 15, 2017

YVONNE R. ALSTON, Plaintiff,



         Pro se plaintiff Yvonne R. Alston's complaint originally alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"). 15 U.S.C. § 1681 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. against Defendants Branch Banking and Trust Company ("BB&T"). Equifax Information Services. LLC (“Equifax"). Experian Information Solutions. Inc. ("Experian"), Trans Union. LLC ("Trans Union"), and Midland Credit Management. Inc. ("Midland") (collectively. "Defendants"). ECF No. 27.[1] Alston moves to alter or amend this Court's Order regarding her claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1681 i(a) (Count V). ECF No. 67. and Trans Union moves for summary judgment regarding Alston's claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(a) (Count III), ECF No. 71-1. No hearing is necessary to resolve these motions. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Alston's Motion to Alter or Amend is denied, and Trans Union's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         A. Factual Background

         Alston's complaint stems from an initial dispute with BB&T whereby Alston, on May 31, 2014. requested a payoff statement from BB&T for the mortgage refinance loan on her primary residence (the ""Note"). ECF No. 27 ¶¶ 8-9. BB&T acquired the loan in June 2013 from Virginia Heritage Bank. ECF No. 27 ¶ 10. On June 4. 2014. BB&T sent Alston a payoff statement, a notice of transfer of servicing, and a copy of the Note. Id. ¶ 12. According to Alston, the Note sent in that correspondence "was not certified as a true and accurate copy." Id. ¶ 13. Following additional rounds of correspondence. Alston staled that BB&T failed to verify that it was the holder of the Note and. therefore, should have ceased assessing interest on her loan after June 2014. Alston demanded that BB&T apply her mortgage payments submitted from June 2014 through December 2014 to her principal balance only. Id. ¶ 22. On January 4. 2015. BB&T ultimately provided Alston with a payoff statement which, contrary to Alston's demand, directed a portion of her monthly payments to the interest due on the Note. Id. ¶ 23.

         Alston then sent a dispute letter to three consumer reporting agencies ("CRAs"). Equifax. Experian. and Trans Union, in which she stated that the balance on her mortgage account was incorrect. According to Alston, rather than a balance of $131, 809. her report should have shown a balance of $ 29.463.40 to reflect application of her June 2014 through December 2014 mortgage payments to her principal balance only. Id. ¶ 24. Alston asked that the CRAs "investigate whether [Alston] attempted to pay the debt in full and whether BB&T provided the necessary documentation" for her to complete the payoff. Id. Alston alleges that "[u]pon information and belief, " Experian and Trans Union forwarded notice of her dispute to BB&T, but Equifax did not. Id. ¶¶ 26. 31.[3] Alston alleges that BB&T. upon receiving notice of her dispute from Experian and Trans Union, did not conduct an independent investigation of her dispute. Instead. BB&T only verified that the information reported to the CRAs was consistent with the information that BB&T had previously reported and did not notate that Alston's account was in dispute. Id. ¶¶ 32-33. On or about January 15. 2015. Experian responded to Alston with the results of its investigation into her dispute but did not provide her with a copy of her full credit tile. Id. ¶ 27. Experian did not change her account as a result of the dispute, and Alston alleges that Experian "relied on BB&T's conclusions and parroted the results of BB&T's purported investigation" instead of independently investigating the dispute. Id.

         On January 9, 2015. Trans Union provided Alston with the result of its investigation of her dispute, and. like Experian. continued to report Alston's mortgage balance as $131, 809. Id. ¶ 29. Alston alleges that Trans Union, like Experian. did not independently investigate her dispute but instead relied on BB&T's purportedly inadequate investigation. Id. Trans Union provided Alston with a copy of her credit file, which revealed that Midland, a debt collection and information management company, id. ¶ 4. had obtained a copy of her consumer report from Trans Union on August 22. 2014. Id. ¶ 30. Alston alleges that she contacted Midland and spoke with an employee who "acknowledge[d] that Midland did not have a reason to obtain her report." Id. Alston contends that Midland obtain her report as part of its scheme to pull individuals' consumer reports in order to identify potential creditors to solicit and offer its debt collection services. Id. According to Alston. Trans Union is aware that Midland improperly pulls consumer reports for these purposes and yet has not established any procedures to verity that Midland is obtaining credit reports for permissible purposes. Id. Finally, on November 4. 2015. Alston sent another set of dispute letters to the CRAs. indicating that the balance of her mortgage account was still inaccurate and should be reported as $1 21.643.91. Id. 42.

         B. Procedural Background

         Alston initiated this action in State Court on September 8, 2015 alleging various claims against BB&T, Equifax. Experian. and Trans Union. ECF No. 2. Trans Union removed the case to this Court on October 13. 2015. ECF No. 1. On August 26. 2016. following tiling of Alston's Amended Complaint, ECF No. 27. this Court ruled on a number of motions, including. BB&T's Motion to Dismiss Alston's Amended Complaint. ECF No. 32. and Trans Union's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. ECF No. 44. See ECF No. 50. In resolving the motions, the Court:

i. Dismissed in part Alston's 15 U.S.C. § 1681 s-2(b) claim against BB&T (Count I):
ii. Denied Trans Union's Motion tor Judgment on the Pleadings regarding Alston's § 1681e(a) Claim Against Trans Union (Count III):
iii. Dismissed Alston's § 1681i(a)(6)(B)(ii) claim against Experian (Count IV):
iv. Dismissed in part Alston's § 1861 i(a) Claim Against Experian and Trans Union (Count V): and
v. Dismissed Alston's MCDCA and MCPA claims against BB&T (Counts VI and VII).[4]

Following this Order, on October 11. 2016. the Court issued a Scheduling Order, setting a deadline to serve initial disclosures on or before October 25, 2016. complete discovery by February 13, 2017. and submit summary judgment motions by February 11. 2017. ECF No. 62. Alston filed her Motion to Alter or Amend on October 21. 2016. ECF No. 67. and ...

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