United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for
default judgment as to The Money Tree of Georgia, Inc. (ECF
Nos. 26 & 31). As discussed below, the motion is granted.
presented evidence that her process server served the Summons
and Amended Complaint on Linda Sanders “as Manager /
Authorized Agent for The Money Tree of Georgia Inc. at the
address of 39 E May St, Ste E, Winder, GA 30680” on
November 27, 2018. Aff. of Service, ECF No. 19. The Court
ordered Plaintiff to show cause why the agent she served with
the Complaint is the appropriate agent for service. Text
Order (Mar. 22, 2019), ECF No. 27. Plaintiff responded to the
show cause order, asserting that The Money Tree of Georgia,
Inc. was properly served under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 4 and O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4 because Linda Sanders
was a manager at The Money Tree of Georgia, Inc.'s Winder
corporation may be served “by delivering a copy of the
summons and of the complaint to an officer, a managing or
general agent, or any other agent authorized by appointment
or by law to receive service of process” or “by
following state law for serving a summons in an action
brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where
the district court is located or where service is
made.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(h)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(1).
Under Georgia law, a Georgia corporation may be served by
delivering the summons and complaint “to the president
or other officer of such corporation or foreign corporation,
a managing agent thereof, or a registered agent
thereof.” O.C.G.A. § 9-11-4(e)(1)(A). “[T]he
term ‘managing agent' means a person employed by a
corporation . . . who is at an office or facility in this
state and who has managerial or supervisory authority for
such corporation or foreign corporation[.]” O.C.G.A.
§ 9-11-4(e)(1)(B). And, an “agent authorized to
receive service has been defined as one whose position is
‘such as to afford reasonable assurance that he will
inform his corporate principal that such process has been
served upon him.'” Ogles v. Globe Oil Co.,
U.S.A., 320 S.E.2d 848, 849 (Ga.Ct.App. 1984) (quoting
Scott v. Atlanta Dairies Co-op., 238 S.E.2d 340, 343
(Ga. 1977)). The manager of a corporation's store who is
responsible for the store's daily operations,
“including supervision of other store employees and
submission of daily reports to corporate headquarters,
” is “a qualified agent upon whom to perfect
service of process.” Id.
on the present record, the Court finds that Plaintiff
adequately served The Money Tree of Georgia, Inc. by
delivering the summons and amended complaint to Linda
Sanders. Accordingly, The Money Tree of Georgia, Inc.
admitted the allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
by its default. See, e.g., Eagle Hosp. Physicians, LLC v.
SRG Consulting, Inc., 561 F.3d 1298, 1307 (11th Cir.
2009) (“A ‘defendant, by his default, admits the
plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact. . .
.'”) (quoting Nishimatsu Constr. Co.
v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir.
1975)). By its default, The Money Tree of Georgia, Inc.
(“Money Tree”) admitted the following
• Plaintiff had trade lines with Money Tree. Plaintiff
filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and those trade lines were
discharged in bankruptcy in 2011. Am. Compl. ¶¶
8-10, ECF No. 15.
• In August 2017, Plaintiff obtained her Equifax credit
report and saw that Money Tree reported Plaintiff's trade
lines on Plaintiff's Equifax credit report without
indicating that the accounts were discharged in bankruptcy.
Id. ¶¶ 7, 11.
• Plaintiff disputed the report with Equifax on November
28, 2017; she attached to her dispute the Order of Discharge,
and she asked that the trade lines be reported as discharged
in bankruptcy. Id. ¶¶ 12-13.
• Equifax forwarded Plaintiff's dispute to Money
Tree Id. ¶ 14.
• Plaintiff obtained her Equifax credit report on
January 15, 2018. The Money Tree trade lines were still
reported without indicating that they had been discharged in
bankruptcy. Id. ¶ 15.
• Even after Plaintiff disputed the report, Money Tree
willfully failed to conduct a proper investigation of
Plaintiff's dispute and willfully failed to direct
Equifax to correct Plaintiff's credit report.
Id. ¶¶ 25-26.
• Plaintiff suffered credit and emotional damages as a
result of the Money Tree's failure to correct its report.
Id. ¶ 16.
Fair Credit Reporting Act requires a furnisher of credit
information who receives a dispute regarding the accuracy of
information it reported to a consumer reporting agency to
investigate the issue. 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b). And, if
the disputed information is found to be inaccurate, then the
furnisher must promptly modify that item of information. 15
U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b)(1). Based on Plaintiff's
allegations, which Money Tree admitted by its default, Money
Tree willfully failed to conduct a proper investigation of
Plaintiff's dispute and willfully failed to direct
Equifax to correct Plaintiff's credit report. Instead,
Money Tree continued to report inaccurate information on
Plaintiff's credit report even though a reasonable
investigation into Plaintiff's dispute would have
revealed that the information was inaccurate. The Court is
satisfied that these admitted allegations establish a willful
violation of the Act. See Safeco Ins. Co. of Am. v.
Burr, 551 U.S. 47, 71 (2007) (finding that a willful
violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act occurs when there
is a knowing or reckless disregard of a requirement of the
furnisher of credit information willfully fails to comply
with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, then
the furnisher is liable to the consumer “in an amount
equal to the sum of . . . any actual damages sustained by the
consumer as a result of the failure or damages of not less
than $100 and not more than $1, 000, ” plus
“reasonable attorney's fees as determined by the
Court.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681n(a). In this case,
Plaintiff originally sought actual damages caused by Money
Tree's violation of the Act. The Court scheduled an
evidentiary hearing to determine the amount of damages.
Neither Plaintiff nor her attorney appeared for the hearing,