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Alston v. Trident Asset Management, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 17, 2019

JONATHAN T. ALSTON Plaintiff, pro se
v.
TRIDENT ASSET MANAGEMENT, LLC, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Jonathan Alston has sued Trident Asset Management, LLC ("Trident") and Trans Union, LLC ("Trans Union") (hereinafter, collectively "Defendants") in connection with a debt he purportedly owed to Verizon Communications ("Verizon") for unreturned television equipment and associated fees. Alston claims that Trident, which he says acquired the debt from Verizon, attempted to collect the $1, 390.81 debt from him in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the "FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. Alston also claims that Trans Union reported the debt inaccurately on his credit report, also violating the FCRA.[1]

         Defendant Trident has moved for summary judgment as to the remaining claims in Alston's Complaint. ECF No. 25. For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This case concerns the same debt at issue in another case in which Jonathan Alston is the plaintiff, Alston v. Orion Portfolio Services, LLC el at, Civ. No. PJM-16-3697. Alston's allegations in the two cases are nearly identical.

         Alston states in his Complaint in this case that he obtained a credit report from Trans Union and discovered a collection account reported by Trident that indicated that he owed $1, 391 to Verizon for utility services. ECF No. 2 ("Complaint") ¶¶ 5-6. Alston says he disputed the Trident collection account with Trans Union sometime in June 2016, but he does not identify the method through which he conveyed this fact to Trans Union. Id. ¶ 7. Alston says that Trans Union subsequently forwarded his dispute to Trident, which he alleges improperly verified the accuracy of the debt, despite evidence to the contrary. Id. ¶ 8. Alston claims that Trans Union informed him of the results of Trident's investigation sometime in July 2016. Id. ¶ 9.

         On August 22, 2016, Alston purportedly contacted Trident by phone to dispute the debt. Id. ¶10. He says he was told that Trident would send him a letter providing a breakdown of how the $1, 391 was calculated. Id. ¶ 11.

         Alston says he called Trident again on August 25, 2016. Id. ¶ 16. He says that a Trident representative informed him that the debt had been considered '"disputed" as of his August 22 call. Id. ¶ 14. He also says that Trident told him it did not know whether he had returned the Verizon television equipment that was the cause of the debt, nor did Trident know whether Alston had incurred any additional charges related to that equipment. Id.

         Alston goes on to say that on August 29, 2016. he sent a dispute letter to Trans Union, challenging the claim. Id. ¶ 15. He also says he sent a contemporaneous letter directly to Trident. Id. ¶ 16. The letters purportedly disputed the fact that Trident or Orion had acquired the account from Verizon, or that $1, 390.81 was owed on the account, or that Alston owed $742.00 for FIOS TV equipment and $648.81 for past due charges. Id. ¶¶ 17-20. Even so, says Alston, Trident continued its debt collection activity, reporting the debt to Trans Union prior to providing Alston with validation of the debt in September 2016. Id. ¶¶ 21-23.

         Alston claims that Trident is improperly reporting the debt as resolved and no longer in dispute. Id. ¶ 28. He says he submitted two additional disputes to Trans Union, which, he says, informed him in December 2017 that Trident had again verified the amount of the debt, had indicated that no changes would be made as to how the debt would be reported, and had again indicated that it found no notation that the collection account was disputed. Id. ¶ 31. Alston alleges that Trans Union blindly reported the results of Trident's investigation into the debt, despite failing to conduct its own investigation and knowing that Trident's investigation relied on inaccurate. incomplete, and unverified information. Id. ¶¶ 34-38.

         On or about January 10, 2018. Alston filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, ECF No. 2, which Defendants removed to this Court on February 26, 2018. ECF No. 1. The Complaint alleges five Counts of FCRA violations, two against Trans Union, and three against Trident. ECF No. 2. On November 20, 2018, Alston and Trans Union filed a joint stipulation stating that all matters between them had been settled. ECF No. 20. The Court subsequently dismissed Trans Union from the case. ECF No. 22. Trident remained in the case.

         On December 27. 2018. Trident filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to all claims Alston made against it in his Complaint. ECF No. 25. Alston filed his Opposition on January 22, 2019, ECF No. 27, which Trident moved to strike on the grounds that it was not timely. ECF No. 28. Trident also filed its Reply to Alston's Opposition on February 1, 2019. ECF No. 29.[2]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Rule 56(a), "[t]he-court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'' Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). This does not mean, however, that "some alleged factual dispute between the parties" defeats the motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). Rather, "the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.'" Id. (emphasis in original). Once the party moving for summary judgment has properly filed evidence supporting its motion, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to submit specific facts ...


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