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Frazier v. Experian Information Solutions

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 21, 2018

ERIEN LOIS FRAZIER, Plaintiff,
v.
EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on three Motions: Defendants Equifax Inc.'s (“Equifax”) and Equifax Information Services LLC's (“EIS”) (collectively, the “Equifax Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint and Brief in Support of Motion (ECF No. 19); Plaintiff Erien Lois Frazier's (“Erien”)[1] Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint and Memorandum of Law in Support (ECF No. 24); and Defendant Experian Information Solutions, Inc.'s (“Experian”) Motion to Transfer Related Case (ECF No. 29).[2] The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant Equifax Defendants' Motion, grant Erien's Motion, and deny Experian's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[3]

         On September 14, 2017, Erien sent Equifax[4] a written request for “ALL INFORMATION in [her] consumer file.” (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 25, ECF No. 16; Compl. Ex. D, ECF No. 1-5). In Response, Equifax sent her a “credit report, ” which was “not responsive to her request.” (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 26). After receiving a response from Equifax that “did not comply with the request made, ” Erien sent Equifax a “second and final request for a full consumer file disclosure” on October 11, 2017. (Id. ¶ 31; Compl. Ex. G, ECF No. 1-8). In response to this request, Equifax again sent her a “credit report” that was “not responsive to her request.” (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 34; Pl.'s Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Dismiss [“Pl.'s Opp'n”] Ex. A, ECF No. 21-1). She asserts that Equifax's file on her contains “substantial information relating to [her] . . . that has not been disclosed to her.” (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 40).

         On January 9, 2018, Erien, proceeding pro se, filed the present action against Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union LLC (“Trans Union”). (ECF No. 1). Equifax filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint on March 12, 2018. (ECF No. 13). In response, Erien filed a First Amended Complaint (the “Amended Complaint”) on April 2, 2018, which added EIS as a Defendant. (Mar. 29, 2018 Ltr., ECF No. 16-3). In her three-Count Amended Complaint, Erien alleges that Defendants violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the “FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681g(a)(1) (2018). (1st Am. Compl. ¶¶ 52-63). Erien seeks statutory damages, attorney's fees, and costs from each Defendant. (Id. at 12-13).

         Equifax Defendants now move to dismiss the claims against them. (ECF No. 19). On May 7, 2018, Erien filed an Opposition. (ECF No. 21). Equifax Defendants filed a Reply on May 21, 2018. (ECF No. 22).[5]

         On August 17, 2018, Erien filed a Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint and Memorandum of Law in Support. (ECF No. 24). Equifax Defendants filed an Opposition on August 31, 2018. (ECF No. 28). To date, the Court has no record that Erien filed a Reply.

         On November 1, 2018, Experian filed a Motion to Transfer Related Case. (ECF No. 29). To date, the Court has no record that any of the parties filed an Opposition.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Transfer Related Case

         Experian requests that the Court transfer this case to the judge that is presiding over Joahn Barron Frazier v. Experian Information Solutions Inc., et al., No. 18-067-JKB (D.Md. closed Nov. 30, 2018), because it is a related case.

         Local Rule 103.1.b.i provides that a plaintiff may designate a case as related to another case or cases “previously decided or pending” if, in relevant part, they: (1) “arise from the same or identical transactions, happenings, or events”; (2) “involve the identical parties or property”; or (3) “for any other reason would entail substantial duplication of labor if heard by different judges.” If the plaintiff does not designate a case as related to a prior case, defense counsel “shall bring that information to the attention of all parties and the Clerk.” Local Rule 103.1.b.ii. Any disputes regarding whether a case is related to another case “shall be presented by motion to the judge to whom the new or later case has been assigned.” Local Rule 103.1.b.iii.

         Experian contends that the cases are related because “both Plaintiffs make the same factual allegations and assert the same causes of action against the same Defendants.” (Mot. Transfer Related Case at 4, ECF No. 29). Experian maintains that having the same judge resolve both cases would prevent a duplication of effort and “would avoid inconsistent results.” (Id.). While Experian raises valid points, the Court nevertheless declines to transfer this case for at least three reasons.

         First, even though Joahn and Erien filed similar Complaints that bring the same causes of action against the same Defendants, they do not “arise from the same or identical transactions, happenings, or events.” Local Rule 103.1.b.i. (1). Joahn and Erien sent separate correspondence to each Defendant and received separate responses. Second, the cases do not involve identical parties-Joahn and Erien are different plaintiffs. Moreover, because they are different individuals, they have their own distinct credit histories, and, as a result, different information that Defendants may have failed to disclose. Third, Experian's concerns over duplicating efforts and avoiding inconsistent outcomes are unwarranted. The Court has the benefit of this Court's opinions in Frazier to guide its decisions in this case.

         Thus, the Court concludes that a transfer is not warranted. Accordingly, the Court will deny Experian's Motion.

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         1. Standard of Review

         The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to “test[ ] the sufficiency of a complaint, ” not to “resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 (D.Md. 2013) (quoting Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012)), aff'd sub nom., Goss v. Bank of Am., NA, 546 Fed.Appx. 165 (4th Cir. 2013).

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). But, the court need not accept unsupported or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979), or legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Pro se pleadings, such as Erien's, are liberally construed and held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); accord Brown v. N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d 720, 722 (4th Cir. 2010). Pro se complaints are entitled to special care to determine whether any possible set of facts would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). Nonetheless, “[w]hile pro se complaints may ‘represent the work of an untutored hand requiring special judicial solicitude,' a district court is not required to recognize ‘obscure or extravagant claims defying the most concerted efforts to unravel them.'” Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. for Balt., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985)).

         2. Analysis

         Equifax Defendants advance two main arguments for dismissing the First Amended Complaint: (1) Equifax is not a “consumer reporting agency” (“CRA”) as defined under the FCRA; and (2) the First Amended Complaint fails to plead sufficient facts to state a claim under § 1681g of the FCRA. The Court addresses these arguments in turn.

         a. “Consumer ...


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