Consistency Is Key: FCRA Case Survives Summary Judgment Due To Inconsistencies In Report
The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently denied a motion for summary judgment in a FCRA case, paving the way for the dispute to proceed to trial. In Chiarello v. Trans Union, LLC, No. 2:17-cv-00513-AB, 2018 WL 4698846 (E.D. Penn. Oct. 1, 2018), plaintiff filed FCRA claims against the three national credit bureaus. Defendants reported that plaintiff was delinquent in his child support payments; plaintiff contacted defendants and disputed this information. Pursuant to plaintiff’s request, Experian later prepared a merged report that included information from Experian, as well as Experian’s transcription of relevant information from Equifax and Trans Union. Information from each of the three bureaus was different with respect to plaintiff’s child support obligations – one said his payment history was negative, with ongoing monthly payments of $355; another said plaintiff owed $2,560 in past due child support; and the third described the account status as “collection,” with monthly obligations of $509. Plaintiff claimed that he was denied numerous extensions of credit and suffered emotional harm and embarrassment from these supposed errors.
Plaintiff filed suit under FCRA, alleging the defendants failed to properly reinvestigate his complaints about the inaccuracies in his consumer reports and failing to use reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information in his reports. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment.
Timing was on defendants’ side with respect to the reasonable investigation claim. FCRA provides for a two-year statute of limitations, in certain situations. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681p. Because the plaintiff did not file suit regarding his claim that defendants failed to reasonably reinvestigate within two years of discovery of the violation, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants.
Conversely, timing could not save defendants from plaintiff’s reasonable procedures claim, as the merged report was produced approximately two years after plaintiff’s request to reinvestigate. The Court denied summary judgment on this claim, focusing on the inconsistencies in the merged report. The Court noted that at least some of these inconsistencies must necessarily be inaccurate, and from this, a jury could infer that defendants failed to follow reasonable procedures. The Court further noted that plaintiff presented sufficient evidence regarding his alleged injuries, noting that testimonial evidence of emotional harm is sufficient to demonstrate an injury under FCRA. It remains to be seen how much consistency, or lack thereof, will ultimately matter to a jury in this case.