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Lindsey v. Experian Information Solutions Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

January 31, 2017

STEPHEN LINDSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ABDUL K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Stephen Lindsey filed this action against Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”), for an alleged “intentional refusal to conduct a reinvestigation” in violation of section 1681i(a)(1)(A) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (“FCRA”). See doc. 1.[1] The court has for consideration Experian's motion for summary judgment, doc. 25, and Lindsey's cross-motion for partial summary judgment on his willful violation claim, docs. 28; 30. The motions are fully briefed, docs. 25; 28; 30; 33; 34; 35, and ripe for review.[2] For the reasons stated below, Experian's motion is due to be granted, and Lindsey's motion denied.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary judgment is proper “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.” “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (alteration in original). The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who is required to go “beyond the pleadings” to establish that there is a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The court must construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 244 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party's favor). Any factual dispute will be resolved in the non-moving party's favor when sufficient competent evidence supports that party's version of the disputed facts. But see Pace v. Capobianco, 238 F.3d 1275, 1276-78 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve disputes in the non-moving party's favor when that party's version of events is supported by insufficient evidence). However, “mere conclusions and unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Bald Mountain Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Moreover, “[a] mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that a jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In July 2013, Lindsey requested and received his personal credit report from Experian. See SEALED doc. 26-1 at APP., p. 18. The report reflected a $3, 521 debt to Sam's Club, which Portfolio Recovery Associates, L.L.C. (“PRA”) had purchased. See Id. at APP., p. 23; doc. 1 at 3. PRA ultimately sued Lindsey in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. After a trial on November 10, 2014, the court entered judgment in favor of Lindsey. See SEALED doc. 26-1 at APP., p. 12. That same day, Lindsey sent Experian a letter stating: “I am writing to dispute an entry on my credit report. I believe that Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC is reporting an account number with a sum claimed of $3, 521.88 on my credit report.” See SEALED doc. 26-1 at APP., p. 5. Lindsey requested “that [Experian] investigate Portfolio's entry on [his] credit report and respond to [Lindsey] within thirty days.” Id. The letter included Lindsey's first and last name, home address, the Circuit Court case number, the judge's name and telephone number, the address and phone number for the Circuit Court Clerk, the contact information for Lindsey's attorney, Lindsey's date of birth, and the last four digits of Lindsey's social security number. See id.

         On November 19, 2014, the day after Experian received Lindsey's letter, see SEALED doc. 26 at 2, “[i]ndependently of the . . . correspondence [from Lindsey], . . . per the data furnisher's batch transmission, Experian deleted [the] trade line regarding [Lindsey] reported by Portfolio Recovery [Associates], LLC.” Id. The next day, in response to Lindsey's letter, Experian wrote Lindsey stating that it had “received a suspicious request regarding [Lindsey's] personal credit information that [Experian has] determined was not sent by [Lindsey].” SEALED doc. 26-1 at APP., p. 8. The letter further stated that “[Experian has] not taken any action on this request” and “[a]ny future requests made in this manner will not be processed and will not receive a response.” Id. Finally, the letter stated:

If you believe that information in your personal credit report is inaccurate or incomplete, please call us at the phone number that displays on your Experian personal credit report, or visit our secure web site at www.experian.com/dispute. You also may write to us at the address on your Experian personal credit report. Be sure to include all of the following: your full name including middle initial (and generation such as JR, SR, II, III); Social Security number; current mailing address; date of birth; and previous addresses for the past two years.
Include the account name and number for any item on your credit report that you wish to dispute, and state the specific reason why you feel the information is inaccurate. The dispute process may take up to 30 days . . . . Once we complete the processing of your dispute, we will promptly notify you of the outcome.

Id. In other words, Experian did not initiate any reinvestigation in response to Lindsey's correspondence. SEALED doc. 26 at 3.

         On December 1, 2014, Lindsey visited Experian's website to request his free annual credit disclosure. See SEALED doc. 26-1 at APP., p. 40. The report Lindsey received did not include the PRA account, which Experian had deleted a few weeks earlier. See generally SEALED doc. 26-1 at APP., pp. 40-61. Other than requesting this free report, there is no evidence that Lindsey utilized the procedures Experian outlined in Experian's letter to follow-up on his initial correspondence to Experian.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The FCRA requires a consumer reporting agency (“CRA”) to conduct a free reinvestigation of a consumer's file if “the completeness or accuracy of any item of information contained in a consumer's file . . . is disputed by the consumer.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)(1)(A). After a reinvestigation, the CRA “shall provide written notice to a consumer of the results of a reinvestigation.” § 1681i(a)(6)(A). “As part of, or in addition to, the notice . . ., a [CRA] shall provide . . . a consumer report that is based upon the consumer's file as that file is revised as a result of the reinvestigation. . . .” § 1681i(a)(6)(B). The FCRA provides a private right of action against CRAs for willful violations of the duty to conduct a ...


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