United States District Court, D. Maryland
CANDACE E. ALSTON, Plaintiff,
TRANS UNION, LLC, Defendant.
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court are Plaintiff Candace E. Alston's Motion
to Alter or Amend the Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 59(e), and Defendant Trans Union LLC's
("Trans Union") Motion for Sanctions. Having
reviewed the briefs, the Court finds no hearing necessary.
See D. Md. Local R. 105.6 (2016). For the reasons
set forth below, Alston's Motion is DENIED, and Trans
Union's Motion is DENIED.
alleged that Defendants Trans Union and Experian Information
Solutions, Inc. ("Experian"), which are consumer
reporting agencies ("CRAs"), each violated two
provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act
("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1681x (2012):
15 U.S.C. § l68le(b) and 15 U.S.C. § l68li(a)(1).
She based those claims on Defendants' reporting of her
Wells Fargo mortgage loan. On February 26, 2016, this Court
granted summary judgment to Wells Fargo in Alston v.
Wells Fargo, No. TDC-13-3147, in which Alston sued Wells
Fargo, the loan servicer, for FCRA violations based on that
same mortgage loan. This Court found that Wells Fargo's
reports to CRAs that Alston's mortgage account was
delinquent were accurate, such that her FCRA claims
necessarily failed. 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 appealed that decision to the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. On March 14, 2017,
Alston's appeal was dismissed as untimely. Order,
Alston v. Wells Fargo, No. 16-2124, 2017 WL 4574468
(4th Cir. Mar. 14, 2017).
the Court's grant of summary judgment in Wells
Fargo, Trans Union contacted Alston's counsel
multiple times to ask him to dismiss Alston's claims in
the present case voluntarily, asserting that the claims were
no longer viable. According to Trans Union, Alston's
attorney never responded. On March 4, 2016, Trans Union
served Alston's counsel with a draft Motion for Rule 11
Sanctions and informed him that Trans Union intended to file
the motion if Alston did not withdraw the Complaint.
than voluntarily dismiss her claims, Alston continued
vigorously to litigate them. On March 12, 2016, she filed a
Motion for Reconsideration of an Order issued by United
States Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day denying her Motions to
Compel Discovery and to Amend the Scheduling Order. That
motion was fully briefed by all parties. After prevailing on
that Motion, Alston filed two Motions to Compel in November
2016, which the Court returned because she filed them pro
se while still represented by counsel. On December
6, 2016, Alston's counsel filed a Motion to Withdraw,
which was later granted.
December 9, 2016, Defendants filed a Joint Motion for Summary
Judgment in which they argued that Alston's claims were
collaterally estopped by the Wells Fargo decision.
In her Opposition to the Motion, Alston essentially abandoned
her claim under § l68le, arguing only that she could
maintain her claim under § l68li because there was no
controlling precedent holding that inaccuracy was a
requirement for such a claim. This Court found that in light
of the determination in Wells Fargo that the mortgage account
was accurate, Alston could not succeed on her § l68le
claim, relying on the controlling case of Dalton v.
Capital Associated Industries, Incorporated, 257 F.3d
409 (4th Cir. 2001), which held that inaccuracy is an
essential element under § 1681 e. Alston v. Trans
Union, No. TDC-14-1180, 2017 WL 1628420 at *2 (D. Md.
Apr. 27, 2017). This Court reached the same conclusion as to
Alston's § l68li claim, relying on precedent from
the United States Courts of Appeals for the First, Ninth, and
Eleventh Circuits, as well as cases from within this
District, for the principle that § l68li, like §
l68le, has an inaccuracy requirement. Id. at *2-3.
10, 2017, Trans Union sought leave to file a Motion for
Sanctions against Alston and her former attorney based
primarily on her refusal to dismiss her case in light of the
Wells Fargo decision. On May 23, 2017, Alston sought
leave to file a Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment. In
that request she stated, "even if it is unlikely, based
on how this Court has ruled in its prior decisions, "
that she would prevail on such a Motion, it was
"incumbent" on her to file a Motion to Alter or
Amend because she was "prosecuting this case . . . [for]
the Court of Appeals." May 26, 2017 Request for Conf. at
2, ECF No. 158. She concluded, "This is why the
Defendant's motion for sanctions is utterly absurd."
May 31, 2017 status conference, the Court reminded Alston
that a Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment should generally
be filed only if there is new, controlling precedent that
would dictate a different outcome, or if there is newly
discovered but previously unavailable evidence in support of
her claims. The Court then set a briefing schedule for the
proposed motions. Under that schedule, Alston was to file her
Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment by June 14, 2017, and
Trans Union was to file its Motion for Sanctions on July 26,
2017, after the completion of the briefing on the Motion to
Alter or Amend. However, on June 7, 2017, Alston requested
leave to file another motion, specifically a Motion for Costs
against Trans Union based on Trans Union's planned Motion
for Sanctions. That request closed with Alston acknowledging
that an appeal "will likely result in the affirming of
this Court's ruling" and that "she understands
that she has lost. And that the case ... is over." June
7, 2017 Req. for Conf. at 2, ECF No. 161. She noted Trans
Union's contention that it had incurred extra expenses in
litigating the case because she "would not drop it,
" then added that if "Trans Union drops its motion
for sanctions, " she would agree to "drop her
motion to alter and agree not to appeal this Court's
decision." Id. On June 14, 2017, Alston filed
the Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment against both
June 22, 2017 status conference, Experian stated that it
would not join in the Motion for Sanctions, and Alston agreed
to withdraw the Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment as to
Experian. At that same status conference, the Court set the
following briefing schedule. Trans Union would file its
Motion for Sanctions by July 26, 2017; Alston would file her
Motion for Costs as part of the Opposition to the Motion for
Sanctions and would submit that combined filing to the Court
by August 14, 2017; Trans Union would have until August 28,
2017 to submit a combined Opposition to the Motion for Costs
and Reply Memorandum on the Motion for Sanctions; and Alston
would have until September 11, 2017 to file her Reply
Memorandum on the Motion for Costs. Although Trans Union
timely filed its Motion for Sanctions, Alston filed nothing
by August 14, 2017 deadline. On September 6, 2017, she filed
a Motion for Extension of Time, which was later granted. On
September 11, 2017, Alston filed her Opposition to Trans
Union's Motion and included a Motion for Sanctions,
rather than a Motion for Costs, asserting that Trans Union
should be sanctioned for seeking sanctions against her. Trans
Union responded to that Motion on September 25, 2017.
October 17, 2017, Alston filed what she titled,
"Plaintiff Alston's Motion for Sanctions and Her
Opposition to Trans Union LLC's Motion for
Sanctions." The Court struck that new motion as
untimely. On November 6, 2017, Alston sought permission to
file a Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's Order
striking her belated filing.
Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment
Motion to Alter or Amend under Rule 59(e), Alston asks this
Court to reconsider its grant of summary judgment to Trans
Union. Alston claims that this Court erred because: (1) the
Court improperly found that certain information was not
relevant to Alston's dispute with Trans Union, and (2)
§ l68li does not ...