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Campbell v. Equifax Information Services, LLC

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

March 25, 2019




         On March 16, 2018, Plaintiff Kei Shondra Campbell filed a Complaint pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., alleging Defendants negligently and willfully violated their duties under the Act. (Doc. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Bank of America, N.A. (“Defendant” or “BANA”) and BMW of North America, LLC (“BMW”) failed to furnish accurate information to co-Defendant Equifax Information Services, LLC (“Equifax”) after notice of a valid dispute, in violation of Section 1681s-2(b). (Id.) Presently before the Court is Defendant BANA's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, (doc. 11), to which Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition, (doc. 17), and Defendant a Reply, (doc. 18). Defendant BANA moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against it, arguing that her claims are insufficiently pleaded and are otherwise not cognizable under the FCRA. (Doc. 11; see also doc. 18.) Plaintiff counters that her claims are well-pleaded and cognizable, and to the extent they are not, she seeks leave to amend. (Doc. 17.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendant BANA's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 11.) Further, the Court ORDERS the parties to file a Status Report within twenty-one (21) days from the date of this Order.[2]


         This action arises out of Defendant BANA's allegedly inaccurate reporting of its “trade lines” on Plaintiff Campbell's Equifax consumer credit file. (Doc. 1, p. 2.) Sometime prior to June 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and on or about June 2, 2016, Plaintiff received an order of discharge from the bankruptcy court. (Id. at p. 3.) In late August 2017, Plaintiff obtained her credit files from Equifax and discovered that BANA (among others) was inaccurately reporting its trade line (also referred to as an “Errant Trade Line”) therein by failing to indicate that its account was discharged in Plaintiff Campbell's bankruptcy proceedings. (Id. at pp. 2-3.) Upon learning of these Errant Trade Lines, Plaintiff submitted a letter to Equifax around December 7, 2017, disputing the inaccuracies. (Id.) “In the dispute letter, Ms. Campbell explained that the subject accounts were discharged, attached the order of discharge[, ] and asked Equifax to report the Errant Trade Lines as discharged in bankruptcy.” (Id.) Equifax then forwarded Plaintiff's dispute to Defendant. (Id.) However, on February 1, 2018, Plaintiff again obtained her Equifax credit file and it still showed Errant Trade Line for the BANA account. (Id. at p. 4.) Meaning, after Plaintiff filed her dispute, her credit file continued to “fail to report that the subject accounts were discharged.” (Id.)

         Counts I and II of the Complaint pertain to Defendant BANA. In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant negligently violated of the FCRA because, after Equifax informed Defendant of Plaintiff's consumer dispute regarding “the bankruptcy discharge[] language of the Errant Trade Line, [Defendant] negligently failed to conduct a proper investigation of [Plaintiff's] dispute” as required by the FCRA. (Id. at p. 4.) Defendant also “negligently failed to review all relevant information available to it and provided by Equifax in conducting its reinvestigation” as required by the FCRA, and “failed to direct Equifax to report the discharge[] language for the Errant Trade Line.” (Id.) In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant BANA willfully violated the FCRA because, after being notified by Equifax of Plaintiff's consumer dispute, it “willfully failed to conduct a proper reinvestigation of [Plaintiff's] dispute, ” “willfully failed to direct Equifax to report the discharge[] language, ” and “willfully failed to review all relevant information available to it and provided by Equifax as required by [the FCRA].” (Id. at pp. 5-6.)

         Plaintiff claims that BANA's Errant Trade Line “is inaccurate and creating a misleading impression on [Plaintiff's] consumer credit file with Equifax.” (Id. at p. 5.) Due to Defendant's failure to correct the inaccuracies raised by Plaintiff's dispute, she has suffered credit harm, including refraining “from applying for new credit or more favorable terms on existing credit lines, ” and emotional harm, including “mental anguish, suffering, humiliation, and embarrassment.” (Id. at pp. 4-5.) As relief for Defendant's alleged negligent and willful violations of FCRA Section 1681s-2(b), Plaintiff seeks actual, statutory, and punitive damages along with reasonable attorney's fees as provided for by Sections 1681o and 1681n of the FCRA. (Id. at pp. 5-6.)


         In ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must “accept[] the allegations in the complaint as true and constru[e] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Belanger v. Salvation Army, 556 F.3d 1153, 1155 (11th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “A complaint must state a facially plausible claim for relief, and ‘[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action'” does not suffice. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. (citation and internal quotations omitted). While a court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true, this tenet “is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are insufficient. Id. Rather, the complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the [plaintiff's] claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (citation and internal quotations omitted).


         Defendant argues Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because her Complaint “merely parrot[s] the elements of a[n] FCRA claim” and fails to “allege specific facts regarding the communications from [Equifax] or BANA's investigative procedures.” (Doc. 11, p. 8.) Defendant also contends Plaintiff “fails to explain how the credit reporting is inaccurate” and that any inaccuracy alleged concerns the legal status of her debt, “a pure question of law that the FCRA does not reach.” (Id. at pp. 9-10.) Specifically, Defendant urges that “[t]he fact that [it] may be unable to collect on the debt after Plaintiff received a discharge does not mean that the underlying debt is extinguished [and] Plaintiff does not dispute the accuracy of any reporting about the outstanding balance on her loan.” (Id. at p. 9.) Lastly, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff fails to plead sufficient facts as to willfulness, causation, and damages. (Id. at pp. 12-13.) Defendant reiterates these arguments in its Reply.[4] (See Doc. 18.)

         In response, Plaintiff counters that she has pleaded sufficient facts, arguing that “BANA seeks this Court to impose an impossible pleading standard, as Plaintiff cannot know the communications between Equifax and BANA or BANA's investigative procedures until Plaintiff engages in discovery.” (Doc. 17, pp. 4-5.) Further, Plaintiff emphasizes that the inaccuracy she complains of is BANA's trade line which fails to report the bankruptcy discharge of the subject account. (Id. at pp. 5-6.) As to willfulness, causation, and damages, Plaintiff asserts that the facts and allegations in her Complaint “support a plausible claim for relief” and that the level of specificity Defendant seeks is not required at the pleading stage. (Id. at pp. 6-8.)

         Upon review of Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendant's Motion as well as all supporting briefs, (docs. 1, 11, 17, 18), the Court finds Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim for relief. As explained below, the allegations Plaintiff levies in her Complaint against Defendant BANA, taken as true and construed in her favor, present enough factual content to state a cognizable claim under Section 1681s-2(b) of the FCRA.

         I. The FCRA and Section ...

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