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Boyd v. Wells Fargo Financial Bank, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

October 23, 2017

MICHAEL BOYD, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLS FARGO FINANCIAL BANK, INC., WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendants.

          ORDER

          LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.'s ("WFBNA") Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 27) . This Motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for review. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be GRANTED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Michael Boyd asserts that at various times in August 2009, Defendant published false statements regarding Plaintiff's indebtedness to various credit reporting agencies. Dkt. No. 1-1, p. 127 51 3. Plaintiff asserts that these statements adversely affected his ability to obtain a loan. Id. SI 5. Plaintiff further asserts that he notified the various credit reporting agencies that these statements were false but that Defendant failed to correct the faulty information. Id. 5 7.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This case has a procedural history dating back to 2009. On September 4, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Wells Fargo Financial Bank, Inc. ("WFFBI") in the State Court of Glynn County. Dkt. No. 1-1 p. 6; Dkt. Nos. 27-1, 30-1 fl 1. No other Defendants were named. Id. That Complaint alleged that WFFBI falsely communicated material information about Plaintiff to Equifax Information Services, Experian, and Transunion, including a statement that Plaintiff was indebted to WFFBI. Dkt. No. 1-1 p. 6; Dkt. Nos. 27-1, 30-1 1 2. In an attempt to serve WFFBI, Plaintiff delivered the Complaint to Mary Glembin, an employee of WFFBI in Minnehaha County, South Dakota. Dkt. No. 1-1, p. 9; Dkt. Nos. 27-1, 30-1 5 4. WFFBI never appeared in the case, and the state court entered default judgment in favor of Plaintiff on November 5, 2014. Dkt. No. 1-1, pp. 11-12; Dkt. Nos. 27-1, 30-1 1 5-6.

         On April 5, 2016, WFBNA moved to set aside the judgment on the basis that WFFBI did not exist and that WFBNA was unaware of the suit when default judgment was entered. Dkt. No. 1-1, pp. 90-91. The state court accordingly set aside the judgment on August 12, 2016. Id. at 104; Dkt. Nos. 27-2, 30-1 5 7. On August 17, 2016, Plaintiff moved to add WFBNA as a party in the state court action. Dkt. No. 1-1, p. 110. The state court granted this request, without explaining its reasoning. Id., p. 111. Defendant ultimately removed the action to this Court on November 11, 2016, and this Court denied Plaintiff's motion to remand. Dkt. No. 1; Dkt. No. 25.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is required where "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). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." FindWhat Inv' r Grp. v. FindWhat.com, 658 F.3d 1282, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute is "genuine" if the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. In making this determination, the court is to view all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Johnson v. Booker T. Washington Broad. Serv., Inc., 234 F.3d 501, 507 (11th Cir. 2000).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant must show the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Id. at 325. If the moving party discharges this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of fact does exist. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257.

         The nonmovant may satisfy this burden in two ways. First, the nonmovant "may show that the record in fact contains supporting evidence, sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion, which was 'overlooked or ignored' by the moving party, who has thus failed to meet the initial burden of showing an absence of evidence." Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 332 (Brennan, J., dissenting)). Second, the nonmovant "may come forward with additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency." Id. at 1117. Where the nonmovant attempts to carry this burden instead with nothing more "than a repetition of his conclusional allegations, summary judgment for the defendants [is] not only proper but required." Morris v. Ross, 663 F.2d 1032, 1033-34 (11th Cir. 1981) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant moves for summary judgment, arguing that it was sued after the statute of limitations had run and that the claims do not relate back to those filed before the limitations period had run. Dkt. No. 4. Plaintiff added[1] WFBNA on August 17, 2016, asserting claims under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), [2] which has a two-year statute of limitations, for actions that allegedly occurred in August 2009. 15 U.S.C. § 1681p(1); Dkt. Nos. 27-1, 30-1 M 3, 8. Because the statute of limitations has run, Plaintiff can only bring claims against WFBNA if they relate back to those filed against WFFBI in August 2009 according to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c).

         In federal court[3], claims asserted after the running of the statute of limitations against a new defendant relate back to those filed before its running against a different defendant when (1) the claim arose out of the same transaction or occurrence as that alleged in the original complaint; (2) the new defendant received notice of the action within ninety days[4]of the original complaint; and (3) the new defendant knew within ninety days of the original complaint that the action ...


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