United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
TROY T. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES, INC., Defendant.
Second Amended Complaint filed by pro se plaintiff,
Troy T. Williams, asserts claims against Equifax Information
Services, Inc., for violation of the Fair Credit Reporting
Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (Count I), as
well as state law claims for invasion of privacy (Count II),
negligent, wanton and/or intentional hiring and supervision
(Count III),  and an untitled claim alleging that
Equifax published false information about him (Count
IV). The case currently is before the court
on the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. Upon consideration of the motions,
briefs, and evidentiary submissions, the court concludes that
plaintiff's motion is due to be denied, and
defendant's motion granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that a 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). In other words, summary judgment is proper
“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). “In making this
determination, the court must review all evidence and make
all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing
summary judgment.” Chapman v. AI Transport,
229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc)
(quoting Haves v. City of Miami, 52 F.3d 918, 921
(11th Cir. 1995)). Inferences in favor of the non-moving
party are not unqualified, however. “[A]n inference is
not reasonable if it is only a guess or a possibility, for
such an inference is not based on the evidence, but is pure
conjecture and speculation.” Daniels v. Twin Oaks
Nursing Home, 692 F.2d 1321, 1324 (11th Cir. 1983)
(alteration supplied). Moreover,
[t]he mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat
summary judgment unless that factual dispute is
material to an issue affecting the outcome of the
case. The relevant rules of substantive law dictate the
materiality of a disputed fact. A genuine issue of material
fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence
favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return
a verdict in its favor.
Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1023 (quoting Haves,
52 F.3d at 921) (emphasis and alteration supplied). See
also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 251-52 (1986) (asking “whether the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a
jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law”).
“The standard of review for cross-motions for summary
judgment does not differ from the standard applied when only
one party files a motion, but simply requires a determination
of whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a
matter of law on the facts that are not disputed.”
S. Pilot Ins. Co. v. CECS, Inc., 52 F.Supp.3d 1240,
1242-43 (N.D.Ga. 2014) (citing Am. Bankers Ins. Group v.
United States, 408 F.3d 1328, 1331 (11th Cir. 2005)).
“The Court must consider each motion on its own merits,
resolving all reasonable inferences against the party whose
motion is under consideration.” Id. “The
Eleventh Circuit has explained that ‘[c]ross-motions
for summary judgment will not, in themselves, warrant the
court in granting summary judgment unless one of the parties
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on facts that are
not genuinely disputed.'” Id. (quoting
United States v. Oakley, 744 F.2d 1553, 1555 (11th
Cir. 1984)). “Cross-motions may, however, be probative
of the absence of a factual dispute where they reflect
general agreement by the parties as to the controlling legal
theories and material facts. Id. (quoting
Oakley, 744 F.2d at 1555-56).
Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation v. Scottsdale
Insurance Company, 297 F.Supp.3d 1248, 1252 (N.D. Ala.
2017) (alteration in original).
One Bank (USA), NA (“Capital One”), obtained a
default judgment against Troy T. Williams in the District
Court of Madison County, Alabama, on January 21, 2011. The
judgment entry reads as follows:
This cause comes before the court upon the Plaintiff's
application for a default in the above-styled matter. After
reviewing the court record, the court finds that the
defendant has been duly served and has failed to answer or
otherwise defend upon the complaint. The court further finds
the default has been entered in the above styled matter and
that a default judgment is due to be entered by the court.
Wherefore, it is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed that a
judgment by default is entered in favor of the Plaintiff, in
the sum of $4, 078.83 plus costs of court and such
post-judgment interest as may accrue on this judgment for
which execution may issue.
Doc. no. 107 (Equifax Motion for Summary Judgment), at ECF 40
(Ex. A - Public Records Copy of Default Judgment in favor of
Capital One Bank).
Alabama Court of Civil Appeals described the circumstances
leading to that judgment and subsequent proceedings in the
state court system as follows:
On December 20, 2010, Capital One filed a complaint against
Williams in the district court, asserting that Williams owed
$4, 078.83 on an account stated between Capital One and
Williams. On January 18, 2011, Capital One sought a default
judgment against Williams for failure to answer or otherwise
defend against the complaint. On January 21, 2011, the
district court entered a default judgment in favor of Capital
One in the amount of $4, 078.83, plus court costs and
On September 14, 2011, Williams filed in the district court
an “affidavit of status as secured party and
creditor” in which he declared himself a member of the
“Sovereign People of the Free Republic of
Alabama” and sought the withdrawal of any
“adverse information” from his credit records and
relief from the default judgment. On October 11, 2011,
Williams filed in the district court a motion to dismiss, in
which he stated, among other things, that “[t]his
notice is a trespass in admiralty.” Williams also filed
in the district court a “common law copyright notice,
” purporting to reserve rights regarding the copyright
and trademark of his name. On November 9, 2011, the district
court denied Williams's motion requesting that the case
On September 16, 2013, Williams filed in the district court
an independent action seeking to set aside the default
judgment. In the pleading initiating the action, Williams
asserted, among other things, that Capital One and
Holloway had committed fraud upon the court.
Williams also asserted in his pleading, based on his
assertion of fraud upon the court, various claims against
Capital One and Holloway, and he sought damages in the amount
of $128, 000, 000. On September 23, 2013, the district court
entered an order that stated: “The Court having lost
jurisdiction in this matter, [Williams's] MOTION TO SET
ASIDE is hereby DENIED.” On October 3, 2013, Williams
filed a “motion to reconsider - motion to amend
complaint.” In that postjudgment motion, Williams
purported to amend his claims against Capital One and
Holloway, asserting fraud upon the court, to reduce the
requested amount of damages to $2, 900, so that his claims
would remain within the district court's jurisdiction.
See Ala. Code 1975, § 12-12-31(a) (providing
that the district court has exclusive jurisdiction over all
civil actions in which the matter in controversy does not
exceed $3, 000). As argued by Capital One on appeal,
Williams's October 3, 2013, postjudgment motion was
denied by operation of law on October 17, 2013, pursuant to
Rule 59.1(dc), Ala. R. Civ. P. On October 22, 2013, Williams
filed a document titled “addendum - motion to amend
complaint, ” again seeking to set aside the default
judgment based upon fraud upon the court and, for the first
time, citing Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P. That motion was a
successive postjudgment motion, however, seeking
substantially the same relief as Williams's October 3,
2013, motion; thus, that motion did not toll the time for
taking an appeal. See Green v. Green, 43 So.3d 1242,
1243-44 (Ala. Civ. App. 2009). On November 1, 2013, the
district court entered an order purporting to deny
Williams's “motion to reconsider”; however,
that order was a nullity because the motion had already been
denied by operation of law on October 17, 2013. See
Moragne v. Moragne, 888 So.2d 1280, 1282 (Ala. Civ. App.
2004); and Rule 59.1(dc).
Williams filed an appeal to the circuit court on November 12,
2013. Capital One and Holloway filed a motion to dismiss the
appeal on the basis that the appeal had been untimely filed.
On February 3, 2014, the circuit court entered an order
granting the motion to dismiss. Williams filed a postjudgment
motion on February 28, 2014; that motion was denied by the
circuit court on April 10, 2014. Additionally, in the circuit
court's April 10, 2014, order denying Williams's
postjudgment motion, the circuit court awarded attorney's
fees in the amount of $1, 112.50 as a sanction against
Williams, as requested by Capital One and Holloway. Williams
filed his notice of appeal to this court on May 15, 2014.
Capital One argues on appeal that the circuit court lacked
jurisdiction and, therefore, that it properly dismissed
Williams's appeal from the district court. This court
outlined the appropriate standard of review in M.E.W. v.
J.W., 142 So.3d 1168, 1171 (Ala. Civ. App. 2013):
“‘The timely filing of a notice of appeal is a
jurisdictional act.' Rudd v. Rudd, 467 So.2d
964, 965 (Ala. Civ. App. 1985); see also Committee
Comments to Rule 3, Ala. R. App. P. The question whether the
mother's appeal was timely and, thus, whether the circuit
court acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over the
mother's appeal is a question of law; thus, we review
de novo the dismissal of the mother's appeal by
the circuit court. See Banks v. Estate of Woodall,
129 So.3d 294 (Ala. Civ. App. 2013); see also Ex parte
Terry, 957 So.2d 455 (Ala. 2006) (stating that a claim
that a court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction presents a
question of law, which an appellate court reviews de
As discussed above, Williams's October 3, 2013,
postjudgment motion was denied by operation of law on October
17, 2013. “A notice of appeal from a judgment of a
district court must be filed ‘within 14 days from the
date of the judgment or the denial of a posttrial motion,
whichever is later.' Ala. Code 1975, §
12-12-70(a).” McCaskill v. McCaskill, 111
So.3d 736, 737 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012). Williams filed his
notice of appeal to the circuit court on November 12, 2013,
well over 14 days following the denial by operation of law of
his October 3, 2013, postjudgment motion. Thus, that notice
of appeal was untimely, and the circuit court never acquired
jurisdiction over Williams's appeal. See Ryans v.
State ex rel. Stoudmire, 963 So.2d 95, 96 (Ala. Civ.
App. 2007). Although the circuit court properly dismissed
Williams's appeal, Williams proceeded to file a
postjudgment motion from that dismissal, and the circuit
court purported to deny that postjudgment motion and to award
attorney's fees as a sanction against Williams. Because
the circuit court never obtained jurisdiction over
Williams's appeal, however, it lacked jurisdiction to
entertain any further motions or pleadings. See Maclin v.
Congo, 106 So.3d 405, 408 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012). Thus,
the circuit court's April 10, 2014, order is void.
Based on the foregoing, we affirm the circuit court's
judgment dismissing Williams's action for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction, albeit with instructions to the
circuit court to vacate its April 10, 2014, void order.
Williams v. Capital One Bank (USA), N.A., 192 So.3d
4, 5-6 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015) (footnote supplied, all other
alterations and capitalization in original).
credit file maintained by Equifax Information Services, Inc.,
listed Capital One's $4, 078.83 default judgment against
plaintiff. See doc. no. 107 (Equifax Motion for
Summary Judgment), ECF 45 (Declaration of Celestina Gobin),
at ¶ 30 (“Mr. Williams' Equifax file contained
a judgment in the amount of $4, 078 in favor of Capital One
Bank . . . .”).
asserts that Equifax's inclusion of the Capital One
default judgment in his credit file violated two provisions
of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681
et seq. (“FCRA”). First, plaintiff
asserts that Equifax violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b),
which provides that: “Whenever a consumer reporting
agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable
procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the
information concerning the individual about whom the report
relates.” Second, he asserts that Equifax also violated
15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)(1), which requires a credit
reporting agency to reinvestigate items disputed by
(A) In general. - Subject
to subsection (f), if the completeness or accuracy
of any item of information contained in a consumer's file
at a consumer reporting agency is disputed by the consumer
and the consumer notifies the agency directly, or indirectly
through a reseller, of such dispute, the agency shall, free
of charge, conduct a reasonable reinvestigation to determine
whether the disputed information is inaccurate and
record the current status of the disputed information, or
delete the item from the file in accordance with paragraph
(5), before the end of the 30-day period beginning on the
date on which the agency receives the notice of the dispute
from the consumer or reseller.
(B) Extension of period to
reinvestigate. - Except as provided in subparagraph
(C), the 30-day period described in subparagraph (A) may be
extended for not more than 15 additional days if the consumer
reporting agency receives information from the consumer
during that 30-day period that is relevant to the
(C) Limitations on extension of
period to reinvestigate. - Subparagraph (B) shall
not apply to any reinvestigation in which, during the 30-day
period described in subparagraph (A), the information that is
the subject of the reinvestigation is found to be
inaccurate or incomplete or the consumer reporting
agency determines that the information cannot be verified.
15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)(1) (emphasis
The Basic Requirement: Proof that a consumer
reporting agency either recorded or reported
plaintiff's claims require a showing that a consumer
reporting agency like Equifax either recorded
or reported inaccurate information about a
consumer's credit. See, e.g.,
Cahlin v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 936 F.2d
1151, 1156 (11th Cir. 1991) (“In order to make out a
prima facie violation of section [§ 1681e(b)],
the Act implicitly requires that a consumer must present
evidence tending to show that a credit reporting agency
prepared a report containing ‘inaccurate'
information. If he fails to satisfy this initial
burden, the consumer, as a matter of law, has not
established a violation of section [1681e(b)], and a
court need not inquire further as to the
reasonableness of the procedures adopted by the credit
reporting agency.” (alterations and
emphasis supplied, footnotes omitted)); id. at 1160
(“[A section 1681i(a)(1)] claim is properly raised when
a particular credit report contains a factual deficiency
or error that could have been remedied by uncovering
additional facts that provide a more accurate representation
about a particular entry.” (alteration and emphasis
supplied)). See also Jackson v. Equifax Information
Services, LLC., 167 Fed.Appx. 144, 146-47 (11th Cir.
2006) (affirming the entry of summary judgment in favor of
Equifax on claims under §§ 1681e(b) & 1681i(a)
when the plaintiff presented no evidence that inaccurate
information in his credit report caused a denial of
contends that the amount of Capital One's default
judgment was based upon a “factual error” in the
original entry of judgment by the state court:
Williams argument is NOT “based on a contention
that he does not owe the state court judgment” . .
. rather, it is based on a FACTUAL ERROR reported regarding
the amount of the judgment, as Capital One Bank (USA) N.A.
knows it cannot obtain POST JUDGMENT interest and fees
WITHOUT a cardholder agreement . . . .
Doc. no. 109 (Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment), at ECF 19 (capitalization and
italicized emphasis in original, first ellipsis in original,
second ellipsis supplied).
contention misses the point of the Fair Credit Reporting Act
provisions on which plaintiff's claims are based. He has
not demonstrated that the state court judgment was either
inaccurately recorded by Equifax, or
inaccurately reported to a third party.
Unquestionably, a judgment in the principal amount of $4,
078.83 was entered against plaintiff in the District Court of
Madison County, Alabama, on January 21, 2011, and that
judgment was upheld on subsequent appeal. Plaintiff may
believe that judgment should have been entered for a lesser
amount, but the time for asserting that contention was
either before judgment was entered against him,
or on direct appeal from the judgment in the state
court system. Equifax can only record and report the
information that is available in the public record.
The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine
Fair Credit Reporting Act claims against Equifax also are
barred by the “Rooker-Feldman doctrine.”
See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413
(1923), and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983).
The doctrine is a jurisdictional rule that precludes the
lower federal courts from reviewing state court
judgments. Nicholson v. Shafe, 558 F.3d 1266,
1270 (11th Cir. 2009). This is because “[28 U.S.C.]
§ 1257, as long interpreted, vests authority to review a
state court judgment solely in th[e Supreme] Court.”
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544
U.S. 280, 292, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005). The
Supreme Court recently has cautioned that “[t]he
Rooker-Feldman doctrine . . . is confined to cases
of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name:
cases brought by state-court losers complaining of
injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the
district court proceedings commenced and inviting district
court review and rejection of those judgments.”
Id. at 284, 125 S.Ct. 1517; see also Lance v.
Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 464, 126 S.Ct. 1198, 163 L.Ed.2d
1059 (2006) (per curiam) (noting the
“narrowness” of the Rooker-Feldman
rule). We have since explained that the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine operates as a bar to federal
court jurisdiction where the issue before the federal court
was “inextricably intertwined” with the state
court judgment so that (1) the success of the federal claim
would “effectively nullify” the state court
judgment, or that (2) the federal claim would succeed
“only to the extent that the state court wrongly
decided the issues.” Casale v. Tillman, 558
F.3d 1258, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009) (per curiam)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
Alvarez v. Attorney General for Florida, 679 F.3d
1257, 1262-63 (11th Cir. 2012) (emphasis added, alterations
application of the doctrine to plaintiff's
unpublished decisions from other federal district courts that
address claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,
15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”),
tend to support by analogy Equifax's argument that
plaintiff's Fair Credit Reporting Act claims are
inextricably intertwined with the legitimacy of the state
court default judgment and, therefore, are barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Franklin v.
Dean, No. 2:11-CV-683-WKW, 2013 WL 1867105 (M.D. Ala.
May 3, 2013); and Graham v. Tasa Group, Inc., No.
2:13-CV-00748-LSC, 2015 WL 875228 (N.D. Ala. Mar. 2, 2015).