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Denied! Federal Court Allows FCRA Claims to Survive Motion to Dismiss

As CPW readers know, when a furnisher of credit information receives notice from a credit reporting agency (CRA) that a consumer has disputed the accuracy or completeness of information that the furnisher provided, the furnisher must investigate the dispute, review all relevant information it received from the CRA, and report the investigative results to the CRA.  See 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b).  A consumer faces an exceedingly low bar to state a claim against a furnisher for a breach of this duty under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), as illustrated by a Florida federal trial court’s November 6 ruling. [1]

Earlier this year, the plaintiff in Harris obtained her credit report from two CRAs, which indicated that she had an “account in dispute.”  The plaintiff then sent a letter to the CRAs, requesting that they remove the notation from her credit report, and the CRAs forwarded the plaintiff’s request to the furnisher of that information.  The furnisher verified that the notation was accurate.

When the plaintiff obtained another credit report and noticed that it still indicated an “account in dispute,” however, the plaintiff filed suit against the CRAs and the furnisher, alleging in relevant part that the furnisher had negligently and willfully violated the FCRA by failing to properly investigate her dispute or review the letters she sent the CRAs.  The plaintiff alleged injury due to damaged credit and emotional well-being.

The furnisher filed a motion to dismiss, on the ground that the complaint failed to state a claim against the furnisher under the FCRA, and that the plaintiff’s allegations regarding damages and causation were legally insufficient.  To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must meet the standards set forth in Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires merely “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the [plaintiff] is entitled to relief” and “a demand for the relief sought.”  Here, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida found that the plaintiff’s complaint met the Rule 8(a) standard, and therefore denied the furnisher’s motion.

In particular, the court noted that the plaintiff “explicitly allege[d] in her complaint” that:

  • The furnisher “failed to conduct a proper investigation”;
  • The furnisher “failed to review all relevant information available to it and provided by [third parties]”; and
  • Plaintiff suffered harm to her credit and personal wellbeing as a result.

As such, “[n]othing more is required to survive a motion to dismiss,” the court held.  Of course, whether the plaintiff’s claims have merit after surviving dismissal is a question for another day.  Stay tuned.

 

[1] Harris v. Equifax Information Services, LLC, et al.

© Copyright 2020 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 324
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About this Author

 Dylan Yépez, Squire Patton Boggs, Associate, Cleveland,Labor and employment litigation,federal and state courts,public and private sectors
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Dylan Yépez assists employers in both public and private sectors. His practice mainly encompasses employment-related litigation in federal and state courts and administrative agencies, as well day-to-day counseling on various employment issues.

Dylan helps represent employers in litigation involving alleged harassment, discrimination, Title IX violations, retaliation, wrongful termination and breach of contract, as well as arbitrations involving alleged breach of contract, including collective bargaining agreements.

Dylan counsels employers on wage and hour compliance,...

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