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Pinson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N. A.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

November 12, 2019

JOHN PINSON, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, a financial institution, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 9:16-cv-80688-WJZ

          Before MARTIN, JILL PRYOR, and JULIE CARNES, Circuit Judges.

          MARTIN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         After years spent trying to correct what he views as a false entry on his credit report, John Pinson sued the entity he believed provided the false information: JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A ("JPMorgan Chase"). His pro se complaint asserted claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., and the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. On JPMorgan Chase's motion, the District Court dismissed his complaint for failure to state a claim. Having reviewed Mr. Pinson's complaint, and with the benefit of oral argument, we conclude he has stated three plausible claims for relief under the FCRA. We therefore reverse in part and remand to the District Court to give Mr. Pinson the chance to prove his FCRA claims. However, we cannot say Mr. Pinson plausibly stated a claim under the FDCPA. We therefore affirm the District Court's dismissal of his FDCPA claim.

         I.

         John Pinson got a copy of his credit report from TransUnion, a consumer credit reporting agency, in May 2012.[1] His report showed a past due account with an entity called Chase Home Finance LLC. But Mr. Pinson says he does not have an account with Chase Home Finance LLC. Mr. Pinson's explanation is that JPMorgan Chase, with whom Pinson has a past-due mortgage, [2] used the false name Chase Home Finance when it reported the debt to TransUnion.

         In July 2012, Mr. Pinson disputed the entry with both JPMorgan Chase and TransUnion. TransUnion responded a couple of weeks later with a letter saying Chase Home Finance would continue to appear on his credit report. There is no allegation JPMorgan Chase responded.

         Mr. Pinson sent another letter to JPMorgan Chase in September 2012, again disputing the Chase Home Finance entry on his report. JPMorgan Chase did not respond. Undaunted, Mr. Pinson sent at least four more such letters to JPMorgan Chase in 2013. So far as the complaint shows, JPMorgan Chase never responded to any of those letters, either.

         In April 2014, Mr. Pinson disputed the entry with TransUnion once again. TransUnion responded with another letter saying Chase Home Finance would continue to appear on the report. Mr. Pinson repeated his dispute in yet another letter to TransUnion in June 2014. TransUnion once again replied that the Chase Home Finance entry would continue to appear.

         All told, Mr. Pinson wrote TransUnion three times and JPMorgan Chase at least six. Yet the Chase Home Finance entry still appeared on Mr. Pinson's credit report as of May 2015.

         Throughout this back-and-forth, Mr. Pinson says JPMorgan Chase failed to investigate the accuracy of the information on his credit report. He also says JPMorgan Chase requested his credit report from Experian, another credit reporting agency, some twenty times without a proper purpose.

         Mr. Pinson sued JPMorgan Chase in April 2016, asserting violations of the FDCPA and the FCRA.[3] He asserts JPMorgan Chase violated the FDCPA's prohibition on using a name other than a business's true name in connection with the collection of a debt when JPMorgan Chase gave TransUnion the name Chase Home Finance. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(14). He also claims JPMorgan Chase violated the FCRA by failing to investigate the accuracy of information it provided to TransUnion and by requesting his credit report without a permissible purpose. See id. §§ 1681b(f), 1681s-2(b), 1681o.

         On JPMorgan Chase's motion, the District Court dismissed Mr. Pinson's complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Mr. Pinson timely appealed. The Court appointed Ashwin Phatak to represent Mr. Pinson on appeal, and he ably discharged his responsibilities.

         II.

         We review de novo our subject matter jurisdiction, and we have an independent obligation to ensure jurisdiction exists. Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 408, 410 (11th Cir. 1999). We also review de novo the grant of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, accepting the allegations in the complaint as true and construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hunt v. Aimco Props., L.P., 814 F.3d 1213, 1221 (11th Cir. 2016). To state a claim, a complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). A complaint is facially plausible where there is enough factual content to allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). We liberally construe pro se pleadings. Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998) (per curiam).

         III.

         We initially consider whether Mr. Pinson has standing to bring his claims. We conclude he does.

         Standing, a limitation on federal subject matter jurisdiction derived from Article III, requires plaintiffs to show they suffered an injury in fact traceable to the defendant's conduct and redressable by a favorable decision. Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1546-47 (2016). "To establish injury in fact, a plaintiff must show that he or she suffered 'an invasion of a legally protected interest' that is 'concrete and particularized' and 'actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.'" Id. at 1548 (quoting Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 2136 (1992)).

         Mr. Pinson alleged actual, concrete, and particularized injuries: that he lost time communicating with JPMorgan Chase and TransUnion; that he incurred out-of-pocket expenses trying to correct misinformation on his credit report; and that he was denied access to credit and paid higher car insurance premiums as a result of JPMorgan Chase's conduct. We have held that the time spent by a person attempting to correct a false credit report constitutes a concrete injury for purposes of an FCRA claim. See Pedro v. Equifax, Inc., 868 F.3d 1275, 1280 (11th Cir. 2017) ("Pedro also alleged a concrete injury because she alleged that she 'lost time . . . attempting to resolve the credit inaccuracies.'").

         In addition, economic harm is a quintessential injury in fact. See Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 733, 92 S.Ct. 1361, 1365 (1972) ("[P]alpable economic injuries have long been recognized as sufficient to lay the basis for standing . . . ."). Beyond the out-of-pocket expenses, such as postal expenses, incurred by Mr. Pinson in his repeated communications concerning the information in his credit report, he also alleges economic harm in the form of lost credit opportunities and higher car insurance premiums. Mr. Pinson says JPMorgan Chase's alleged violations of the FDCPA and FCRA caused this economic harm. At this stage in Mr. Pinson's case, we accept his allegations as true, and we find them specific enough for us to conclude Mr. Pinson plausibly suffered an injury traceable to JPMorgan Chase's conduct. See id. at 1336 ("Each element of standing . . . must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation." (quotation marks omitted)). This is particularly true given our liberal construction of Mr. Pinson's pro se complaint.

         On top of lost time and money, the harm Mr. Pinson alleges-"the reporting of inaccurate information about [his] credit"-has "a close relationship to the harm caused by the publication of defamatory information, which has long provided the basis for a lawsuit in English and American courts." Pedro, 868 F.3d at 1279-80. That in itself constitutes a concrete injury. See id. at 1279; see also Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1549 (noting that, in assessing whether an injury is concrete, "it is instructive to consider whether an alleged intangible harm has a close ...


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