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Radley v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc,

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 29, 2018




         Plaintiff Marina Radley (“Plaintiff”) brings this action against credit reporting agencies, Equifax Information Services, LLC (“Defendant Equifax”) and Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (collectively, “the CRAs”), as well as RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corporation (“Defendant RoundPoint” or “RoundPoint”), for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (“FCRA”) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act § 1692 et seq. [Docket Item 1, Compl., ¶ 1.]

         Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Equifax is liable under Sections 1681n and 1681o of the FCRA for willfully and negligently failing to comply with the requirements pursuant to Sections 1681e(b) and 1681i(a) (Count One). Before the Court is Defendant Equifax's Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), as well as Plaintiff's First Motion to Amend/Correct the Complaint [Docket Item 36].

         The principal issue to be decided is whether Plaintiff has alleged (or now seeks to allege) sufficiently supportive factual grounds to plead a CRA's violation of the FCRA under 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b) and 1681i(a), where the alleged inaccurate information reported by the CRA was technically correct but may nevertheless be “inaccurate” pursuant to the FCRA.

         For the reasons that follow, Defendant Equifax's Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings will be denied and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint will be granted. The Court finds as follows:

         1. Factual and Procedural Background.

         Plaintiff, a New Jersey resident, filed a complaint with this Court on April 21, 2017 alleging that Defendants were reporting inaccurate information relating to Plaintiff and her credit history “from at least November 2013.” [Docket Item 1, ¶¶ 7-8.] Plaintiff contends this inaccurate information includes a mortgage with RoundPoint that is her ex-husband's responsibility, and “consists of accounts and/or tradelines that do not belong to the Plaintiff.” (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) Plaintiff further alleges the inaccurate information negatively reflects upon Plaintiff's repayment history, financial responsibility as a debtor, and credit-worthiness. (Id. ¶ 10.) She asserts that she disputed this information with all named Defendants, including Defendant Equifax, but that none of the Defendants engaged in any reasonable investigation or any investigation at all. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) As a result, Plaintiff claims actual damages. (Id. ¶¶ 15-17.)

         2. The Proposed Amended Complaint [Docket Item 36-3 (“PAC”); a version of the PAC indicating in what respect it differs from the original Complaint was filed pursuant to L. Civ. R. 15.1 and appears at Docket Item 38-1] alleges that “Defendants have been reporting derogatory and inaccurate statements and information relating to Plaintiff and Plaintiff's credit history to third parties . . . from at least November 2013 through the present” (id. ¶ 8); that the “inaccurate information includes, but is not limited to, a mortgage with RMC for a home that was jointly owned by Ms. Radley and her ex-husband” (id. ¶ 9); that the Superior Court of New Jersey dissolved their marriage on November 19, 2013, whereupon Plaintiff and her ex-husband “entered into a property settlement agreement where Plaintiff's ex-husband would take owenership of their jointly owned home and indemnify Plaintiff against liability for mortgage payments” and that Plaintiff subsequently “executed a quitclaim deed conveying the home completely to her ex-husband, ” retaining no current ownership interest in the house (id. ¶¶ 10-13); that “Defendants are inaccurately reporting information relating to the RMC mortgage, including, but not limited to omitting details regarding Plaintiff's conveyance of the home to her ex-husband, the indemnification provision in the property settlement agreement or the divorce decree” and contends that this inaccurate information “misrepresents Plaintiff's financial responsibility as a debtor and Plaintiff's credit worthiness” (id. ¶¶ 14); that “Defendants have been reporting the inaccurate information through the issuance of false and inaccurate credit information and consumer credit reports[, ]” notwithstanding that “Plaintiff has disputed the accuracy of the RMC mortgage . . . numerous times” with both CRAs (id. ¶¶ 15-17); that the CRAs notified RMC of the dispute, and that Plaintiff also disputed the accuracy of the RMC mortgage directly to RMC (id. ¶¶ 18-19); that the Defendants nevertheless continued to inaccurately report the RMC mortgage and did not include any information within the trade line” relating to the other circumstances described above (id. ¶ 20); that RoundPoint either failed to notify Equifax to mark that trade line as having been disputed, or Equifax failed to so mark at after RoundPoint notified it that it was disputed, rendering that trade line “further inaccurate” (id. ¶ 21); that the CRAs either engaged in no investigation or did not engage in a reasonable investigation (id. ¶ 22); that Defendants knew or should have known that their actions violated the FCRA (id. ¶ 23); and that Plaintiff has suffered damages by being denied for various loans and extensions of consumer credit as a result of the inaccurate information on her credit reports, as well as by losing credit opportunities, and by suffering “informational harm, credit defamation and emotional distress” (id. ¶¶ 24-26).

         3. In Count One of Plaintiff's complaint, she alleges Defendant Equifax violated FCRA at §§ 1681n and 1681o by engaging in the following conduct:

a. “willfully and negligently failing to comply with the requirements imposed on a consumer reporting agency of information pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b) and 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)” [Docket Item 1 ¶ 24.] The PAC repeats this Count verbatim. PAC Paras 29-34.

         4. Defendant RoundPoint filed a motion to dismiss [Docket Item 17]; that motion was granted on alternative grounds, and so the Court did not reach RoundPoint's argument that the alleged information was not inaccurate as a matter of law. Radley v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., No. 1:17-CV-02755 (JBS/JS), 2018 WL 1513576, at *3 (D.N.J. Mar. 26, 2018) [Docket Item 34]. Subsequent to RoundPoint's motion, Defendant Equifax filed the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(c), incorporating the argument the Court did not reach in the prior motion of Defendant RoundPoint. [Docket Item 24.] Plaintiff filed a Response [Docket Item 25] and Defendant Equifax filed a Reply [Docket Item 26]. Plaintiff then, with permission of the Court, filed a Sur-reply. [Docket Item 31.]

         5. In response to the Court's previous Memorandum Opinion granting without prejudice RoundPoint's motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Amend/Correct Plaintiff's Complaint [Docket Item 36], which RoundPoint did not oppose [Docket Item 38 at 1]; Equifax filed a response in opposition [Docket Item 40], and Plaintiff filed a reply [Docket Item 42].

         6. Standard of Review.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), “[a]fter the pleadings are closed--but early enough not to delay trial--a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P., a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Specific facts are not required, and “the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)(citations omitted). While a complaint is not required to contain detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must provide ...

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