United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL United States District Judge.
Joan Frances Brault, a licensed attorney proceeding pro
se, filed this lawsuit against Defendants Trans Union,
LLC (“Trans Union”), J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.
(“J.P. Morgan”), and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
(“Wells Fargo”) alleging violations of the Fair
Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. §
1681, the Truth In Lending Act (“TILA”), 15
U.S.C. § 1601, the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act
(“ECOA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1691, and the Maryland
Consumer Protection Act (“MCPA”), Md. Code. Ann.
Com. Law § 13-301, as well as state law contract and
property claims. Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan have filed
Motions to Dismiss. ECF Nos. 18, 21. Nearly four months
later, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Amend, ECF No.
26, which Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan have opposed. ECF Nos.
27, 28. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for
Leave to Amend is denied, and Defendants' Motions to
Dismiss are granted.
2017, Plaintiff sought to refinance her home with J.P. Morgan
and Wells Fargo, but was denied credit by both entities. ECF
No. 1-4 ¶¶ 7-9. J.P. Morgan first conditionally
approved Plaintiff's application to refinance her home,
but later withdrew the offer based on a credit report
produced by Defendant Trans Union containing false
information, “including a long list of unauthorized
inquiries into Plaintiff's credit, credit card debt not
attributable to Plaintiff, ” and the address of her
ex-husband listed as her own. Id. ¶ 9. Wells
Fargo denied the application due to a “debt to income
ratio of 163.67%.” Id. ¶ 10.
Amended Complaint details the process by which Plaintiff was
directed, first by J.P. Morgan and then by Wells Fargo, to
apply for credit. ECF No. 26-3 ¶¶ 9-18. Upon
conditional approval, J.P. Morgan required Plaintiff to
complete various tasks, including signing the application and
related agreements, providing copies of financial records,
and making a $500 payment. Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff
completed these tasks, but J.P. Morgan denied the application
because the parties to the new transaction were not the same
as the parties to the original mortgage, and because
Plaintiff's debt-to-income ratio was 137.502%.
Id. ¶ 12.
Amended Complaint also alleges that Plaintiff reapplied for
refinancing after securing employment and was denied again
due to insufficient income, high balances on revolving
accounts, level of delinquency, and number of credit
inquiries. Id. ¶ 17. However, Plaintiff alleges
that the delinquency information on her credit report was
incorrect at the time. Id. J.P. Morgan recommended
submitting an application for an assumption of the mortgage,
but that mortgage was also denied due to her debt-to-income
ratio, which did not include her alimony as income because
she could not show six months of alimony payments had been
received. Id. ¶ 19. That fall and winter, the
parties entered conciliation but both Wells Fargo and J.P.
Morgan continued to refuse to offer Plaintiff a refinance or
assumption of the mortgage; J.P Morgan stated that this
denial was because of late payments made on Plaintiff's
accounts during the fall. Id. ¶¶ 22-24.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
leave to amend a pleading “shall be freely given when
justice so requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), a motion for
leave to amend should be denied when the amendment would be
futile. Devil's Advocate, LLC v. Zurich Amer. Ins.
Co., 666 Fed.Appx. 256, 267. An amendment to a complaint
is futile when the amended complaint could not survive a
motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Id.
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court “must accept the
factual allegations of the complaint as true and construe
them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party.” Rockville Cars, LLC v. City of Rockville,
Md., 891 F.3d 141, 145 (4th Cir. 2018). To overcome a
12(b)(6) motion, the “complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, ‘to 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). Plaintiffs must “provide sufficient
detail” to show “a more-than-conceivable chance
of success on the merits.” Upstate Forever v.
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, 887 F.3d 637, 645 (4th
Cir. 2018) (citing Owens v. Balt. City State's
Attorneys' Office, 767 F.3d 379, 396 (4th Cir.
2014)). The mere recitation of “elements of a cause of
action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not
sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435,
439 (4th Cir. 2012). Nor must the Court accept unsupported
legal allegations. Revene v. Charles Cnty. Commis.,
882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). A plausibility
determination is a “context-specific inquiry”
that relies on the court's “experience and common
sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679-80.
Morgan and Wells Fargo seek to dismiss Plaintiff's FCRA,
TILA, ECOA, MCPA, breach of contract, and lis
pendens claims. The FCRA requires “furnishers of
credit information to provide accurate information to credit
reporting agencies, to correct inaccuracies, and to
investigate disputed information upon notice from a credit
reporting agency.” Alston v. Wells Fargo Home
Mortg., No. TDC-13-3147, 2016 WL 816733, at *8 (D. Md.
2016). To bring a claim under § 1681s-2(b) of the act, a
plaintiff must establish “(1) that he or she notified
the consumer reporting agency of the disputed information,
(2) that the consumer reporting agency notified the defendant
furnisher of the dispute, and (3) that the furnisher then
failed to investigate and modify the inaccurate
information.” Ausar-El v. Barclay Bank Del.,
No. PJM 12-0082, 2012 WL 3137151, at *3 (D. Md. 2012).
that Plaintiff has plausibly pled that she notified Trans
Union of the disputed information and that Trans Union
notified Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan, she has not pled that
either entity failed to investigate and modify the inaccurate
information. Instead, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants'
failure to consider her hardship circumstances in their
refusals to agree to forbearance, refinance, or assumption of
the mortgages raises the inference of a “biased,
inadequate and discriminatory FCRA investigation.” ECF
Nos. 20-1 at 6, 24-1 at 6. The Court disagrees. It does not
logically follow that, because Defendants refused to extend
credit to Plaintiff, they also failed to investigate and
modify any inaccurate information. Plaintiff does not even
allege with any specificity that false information remained
on her credit report at the time of Defendants' most
recent denials; to the contrary, she admits that Defendants
relied upon a recent history of late payments to justify
their refusal to extend credit. ECF No. 26-3 ¶ 24. For
her part, Plaintiff contends that she would not have made
late payments were it not for the original denial of credit.
But Plaintiff cites to no authority stating that the FCRA
provides relief due to credit improperly denied. Therefore,
Plaintiff's FCRA claim must be dismissed.
was passed to provide consumers with a “meaningful
disclosure of credit terms” and to protect them against
“inaccurate and unfair credit billing and credit card
practices.” 15 U.S.C. § 1601(a). TILA imposes
penalties upon lenders who fail to make the required
disclosures “before the credit is extended.”
Gibson v. LTD, Inc., 434 F.3d 275, 280 (4th Cir.
2006). TILA's regulations clarify this timing
requirement: “a creditor must ‘make disclosures
before consummation of the transaction.'”
Id. (emphasis in original); see also 12
C.F.R. § 226.17(b). Consummation occurs when “a
consumer becomes contractually obligated on a credit
transaction.” 12 C.F.R. § 226.2. Plaintiff never
became contractually obligated on a credit transaction with
Wells Fargo, as Wells Fargo denied each of her applications
for credit. See, e.g., ECF No. 26-3 ¶ 15.
Therefore, Plaintiff has not stated a claim that Wells Fargo
assuming, without deciding, that Plaintiff became
contractually obligated on a credit transaction with J.P.
Morgan when she responded to the “Mortgage Conditional
Approval” between February and March 2017, Plaintiff
does not allege that J.P. Morgan failed to include
disclosures required by TILA. Even if she did, TILA claims
are subject to a one-year statute of limitations. See,
e.g., Strickland-Lucas v. Citibank, N.A., 256 F.Supp.3d
616, 626-27 (D. Md. 2017). Plaintiff filed her original
Complaint on September 29, 2018, more than one year after she