United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
YVONNE R. ALSTON, Plaintiff,
BRANCH BANKING & TRUST COMPANY, et al., Defendants.
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
se plaintiff Yvonne R. Alston filed suit against
Defendant Trans Union, LLC (“Trans Union”)
alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act
(“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et
seq. The Court either dismissed each claim
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or
entered summary judgment in Trans Union's favor.
See ECF Nos. 51, 78. Presently pending before the
Court is Trans Union's Motion for Attorneys' Fees.
ECF No. 80. No. hearing is necessary to resolve the motion.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons
that follow, Trans Union's Motion is granted, in part,
and Trans Union is awarded attorneys' fees in the amount
of $6, 634.56.
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. 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 stated
that BB&T failed to verify that it was the holder of the
Note and, therefore, should have ceased assessing interest on
her loan. 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.
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 $129, 463.40 to reflect application of her June 2014
through December 2014 mortgage payments to the 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.
January 9, 2015, Trans Union provided Alston with the result
of its investigation of her dispute, and continued to report
Alston's mortgage balance as $131, 809. Id.
¶ 29. Alston alleged that Trans Union 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 alleged
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 contended that
Midland obtained her report as part of a scheme to pull
individual consumer reports in order to identify potential
creditors to solicit and offer its debt collection services.
Id. According to Alston, Trans Union was aware that
Midland improperly pulled consumer reports for these purposes
but had not established any procedural safeguards to prevent
such conduct. Id. Finally, on November 4, 2015,
Alston sent another dispute letter to Trans Union, indicating
that the balance of her mortgage account was still inaccurate
and should be reported as $121, 643.91. Id. ¶
initiated this action in State Court on September 8, 2015,
and Trans Union removed the case to this Court on October 13,
2015. ECF No. 1. Alston alleged that Trans Union failed to
establish or follow reasonable procedures to avoid the
disclosure of her credit information to Midland for
impermissible purposes, in violation of § 1681(e)(a)
(Count III), and failed to conduct a reasonable investigation
into her dispute with BB&T and correct her credit report
accordingly, in violation of § 1681i(a) (Count V).
See ECF No. 27.
Union moved for Judgment on the Pleadings, ECF No. 44, which
the Court granted, in part. ECF No. 50. Regarding Count III,
the Court denied Trans Union's motion, holding that the
facts alleged by Plaintiff, and construed in her favor,
supported an inference that Trans Union failed to establish
sufficient procedures to ensure that it did not provide
Plaintiff's credit history to debt collectors, like
Midland, for impermissible purposes. Id. at 15-17.
Regarding Count V, the Court found that Plaintiff's
dispute with BB&T was a legal dispute to which
Trans Union had no obligation to resolve and dismissed the
claim as an impermissible collateral attack on the legal
validity of her debts. Id. at 18. The Court also
dismissed Plaintiff's claim related to Trans Union's
failure to investigate her November 2015 dispute letter
because Plaintiff had filed her Amended Complaint before the
thirty-day timeline expired for Trans Union to complete its
investigation. Id. at 19.
Plaintiff moved to Alter or Amend the Court's Order on
Count V, alleging that the Order “contains a clear
error of law, ” ECF No. 67, and Trans Union moved for
Summary Judgment on Count III, ECF No. 71-1. Regarding Count
V, the Court found that Plaintiff's motion was improperly
styled as a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(e) because the Court's Order was not a final
judgment and denied the motion as an untimely without
assessing the merits of her underlying argument. ECF No. 77
at 6-8. Notably, the Court stated that Plaintiff's
inability to file a Rule 59(e) motion was clearly laid out by
Judge Chuang in Letren v. Experian Info Solutions,
Inc., No. TDC-14-3957 (D. Md. Aug. 1, 2016) in a case
filed by Plaintiff's daughter, Candace Alston, who
resides at Plaintiff's address. See Alston v. Branch
Banking & Trust Co., No. GJH-15-3100, 2017 WL
4124231, at * 3, n.6 (D. Md. Sept. 15, 2017).
Count III, the Court granted summary judgment in Trans
Union's favor. The Court found that because Plaintiff had
failed to comply with the Court's Discovery Order, ECF
No. 62, participate in discovery, and respond to Trans
Union's request for admission, she had, as a matter of
law, admitted that Trans Union's credit reporting
procedures were adequate and Trans Union did not violate
§ 1681(e)(a). ECF No. 77 at 8-11. While Plaintiff did
not explain her failure to participate in discovery or offer
any evidence in support of the allegations in her Amended
Complaint, Plaintiff opposed Trans Union's motion by
unsuccessfully arguing that Trans Union failed to notify her
of its intent to file a motion for summary judgment as
required by Local Rule 105.2(c). ECF No. 74.
FCRA provides that the Court may award attorneys' fees to
the prevailing party if the opposing party makes a filing in