June 16, 2021

Volume XI, Number 167

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Third Time is the Charm? In FCRA Litigation, Court Says Not So Fast

Last month, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed a pro se plaintiff’s third attempt at bringing a claim under FCRA and FDCPA.  Blackwell v. United Auto Credit, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50681 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 18, 2021).  While a reminder of what is necessary to survive federal pleading standards, the case also discusses the essential elements of a claim under these federal privacy statutes.  Read on for a recap.

First, let’s take a look at the (alleged) facts.  Plaintiff filed suit against United Auto Credit (“UAC”) alleging that UAC harassed him over a debt that Plaintiff disputed.  This purportedly occurred over a period spanning two years, from February 2019 through the suit’s filing in December 2020.

Recall that the FDCPA is designed to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices.  To be successful, a FDCPA claim has to show that the plaintiff was harmed by a violation of the statute, where the debt was primarily for personal or family reasons, and, importantly, where the individual in violation is a ‘debt collector.’  Here, although Plaintiff asserted in the Complaint that UAC is a debt collector, the Complaint was devoid of any alleged facts to support this assertion.  Similarly, despite alleging that UAC had used harassing and abusive tactics to collect the debt, Plaintiff did not provide any details specifying UAC’s alleged misconduct.

The FCRA, by contrast, applies to credit reporting agencies, or ‘furnishers’ of the information that is compiled into a credit report.  As UAC is clearly not a credit reporting agency, the court interpreted Plaintiff’s Complaint to assert that UAC was a ‘furnisher.’  Well, in the context of the FCRA, for a viable noncompliance claim against a furnisher, a plaintiff must show that the defendant was aware of a disputed debt and failed to investigate the situation.  Here, the Plaintiff asserted that the debt was disputed, but again, the lack of detail proved fatal.  He did not include what was inaccurate about the debt, that any reporting agency had been made aware, or that UAC had not properly investigated.  In short, Plaintiff did not include “any of the factual detail that he has to include to state a plausible claim under FCRA.”

The Court surprisingly gave Plaintiff one final chance to amend his Complaint (for a total of four opportunities to state a cognizable claim).  Will Plaintiff (finally) get his act together with yet another bite at the apple?  Time will tell-and we will keep you in the loop.  Stay tuned.

© Copyright 2021 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 131
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About this Author

Dan Lonergan Litigation Attorney Squire Patton Boggs Cleveland, OH
Associate

Dan Lonergan is an associate in the Litigation Practice Group, where he works with our other practice group members on a variety of litigation matters.

Prior to joining the firm, Dan served as an associate editor of Case Western Reserve University Law Review. In his final year of law school, he practiced in the university’s criminal defense clinic, representing clients charged with misdemeanor offenses.

216-479-8629
Kristin L. Bryan Litigation Attorney Squire Patton Boggs Cleveland, OH & New York, NY
Senior Associate

Kristin Bryan is a litigator experienced in the efficient resolution of contract, commercial and complex business disputes, including multidistrict litigation and putative class actions, in courts nationwide.

She has successfully represented Fortune 15 clients in high-stakes cases involving a wide range of subject matters.

As a natural extension of her experience litigating data privacy disputes, Kristin is also experienced in providing business-oriented privacy advice to a wide range of clients, with a particular focus on companies handling customers’ personal data. In this...

216-479-8070
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