United States District Court, D. New Jersey
McNulty, United States District Judge.
the Court is the motion of defendant Equifax Information
Services, Inc., ("Equifax") to dismiss the
complaint of pro se plaintiff Kellar Covington, Jr.
(DE 6). Covington asserts a violation of the Fair Credit
Reporting Act ("FCRA") arising from the reporting
of a "Chase Auto tradeline," a "Toyota Motor
Credit Corp." tradeline, a Macy's tradeline, and a
OneMain financial tradeline on his credit report. He also
asserts that his bankruptcy tradeline remains on his credit
report, even though his bankruptcy was discharged, and that
he believes the Bankruptcy Court does not provide information
to credit reporting agencies. Covington suggests that this
also violates the FCRA.
moves to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim
pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(6). Equifax contends that
Covington has failed to plead factually that there is an
inaccuracy in his credit report, an essential element of an
Equifax points out that Covington has previously sued
Equifax. Covington v. Equifax Info. Servs., Inc.,
Civ. No. 16-8002 (D.N.J.). That matter was dismissed with
prejudice after the parties resolved their dispute through a
settlement agreement in which Covington agreed to release all
claims against Equifax and acknowledged the accuracy of his
credit report as of September 19, 2017. In particular, he
certified that the information about the Toyota tradeline
currently at issue here was accurate.
reasons provided below, Equifax's motion to dismiss is
asserts that he submitted letters "of erroneous
accounts" to Equifax, a consumer reporting agency
("CRA"), for the purposes of having Equifax correct
alleged inaccuracies in his credit report. (Compl ¶ 5).
on July 9, 2018, Covington sent a letter to Equifax that does
not refer to a specific "erroneous account" but
rather encloses "a copy of a letter from the Federal
Trade Commission and other correspondence to them in
reference to incomplete and missing information." (DE 1
at 9). That FTC letter, dated July 6, 2018,
however, merely referred Covington to the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau. It did not specifically address any of
Covington's claims as they related to his credit report.
(DE 1 at 10).
appears that the "other correspondence" Covington
sent to Equifax with his July 9, 2018 letter concerns a
separate letter complaint submitted by Covington to the FTC
on June 21, 2018. (DE 1 at 11). In the June 21, 2018 letter,
Covington complained that Equifax had included an
"incomplete item" on his credit report, that
Equifax "said that they updated it," but "it
still remains the same and they did not delete it."
(Id.). Covington requested the FTC's assistance
in fixing the "incomplete items" in his report.
(Id.). Like the July 9, 2018 letter, the June 9,
2018 letter does not provide any other information regarding
what information in Covington's credit report he was
disputing as "inaccurate" or
"incomplete." (See id.).
October 5, 2018, Covington sent a second letter to Equifax.
This letter related to the Toyota tradeline. (DE 1 at 14). In
that second letter, Covington stated that when he financed
his "cars," he did so "[through] Lexus
Financial Services," not Toyota. (Id.). The
Lexus Financial Services credit, he wrote, was also under a
different account number. (Id.). Covington requested
that Equifax delete the Toyota account from his credit
report, (Id.). Covington suggests that the Toyota
tradeline either does not belong to him, was sold, or bears
an incorrect account number. (DE 1 at 14, 15; DE 8 at 3).
his October 5, 2018 letter, Covington appears to have also
enclosed two additional letters. One was an August 11, 2018
letter addressed to "Toyota Motor Credit Corp" and
"Lexus of Bridgewater," which disputed account
numbers 20562G and 20562K on his credit report. (See
Id. at 15). In this letter, Covington stated that the
vehicle was "purchased on or about 04/09/2011, financed
by Toyota Motor Credit Corp.," was "repossessed in
the state of New Jersey," and sold "on or about
03/07/2014." (DE 1 at 15). Covington requested proof
that "the required notices" were "properly and
timely" given under New Jersey law prior to
repossession. [Id.). Covington asserts that he did
not receive a response from Toyota. (Id. at 14). The
second enclosure was a letter from Lexus dated October 5,
2018. (DE 1 at 17). That Lexus letter enclosed a copy of
Covington's "Closed End Motor Vehicle Lease
Agreement (contract)" for each of his vehicles.
(Id.). Lexus also enclosed a copy of Covington's
payment history for each account, and the "notice of
cancellation" that was sent to Covington after he
defaulted on payment. (Id.).
complaint also contains allegations that are related to his
bankruptcy. (Compl ¶¶ 7-8). On September 6, 2018,
Covington sent a letter to the Bankruptcy Court requesting
information about the Court's "procedure in
responding to requests from" CRAs. (Compl ¶ 8; DE 1
at 26). The Court responded that it "does not provide
any information to credit agencies" because information
about bankruptcy proceedings is public. (Id.).
Covington asserts that he "was left to question how and
why" the bankruptcy tradeline "remains as
reported" since the Court does not respond to CRAs.
(Compl ¶ 7). Equifax reviewed the bankruptcy
matter, updated Covington's credit report, and noted that
his bankruptcy matter was "discharged." (DE 1 at
31). Covington does not dispute that his bankruptcy matter
November 2, 2018, Covington filed a complaint with this Court
alleging violations of the FCRA under 15 U.S.C. §
1681e(b), which requires that CRAs use reasonable procedures
to ensure maximum possible accuracy in consumer reports. (DE
1). On November 29, 2018, Equifax filed a motion to dismiss
the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), arguing that Covington has failed to plead an
inaccuracy, an essential element of an FCRA claim. (DE 6).
Additionally, Covington previously sued Equifax, and executed
a settlement agreement that included a release, Equifax
contends that Covington acknowledged the accuracy of the
Toyota tradeline in that earlier settlement agreement. (DE
considering a motion to dismiss a pro se complaint,
a court must bear in mind that pro se complaints are
held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers. Brickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d
652 (1972); see Alston u. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 234
(3d Cir. 2004) ("Courts are to construe complaints so as
to do substantial justice . . . keeping in mind that pro
se complaints in particular should be construed
liberally." (citations omitted)). This does not,
however, absolve a pro se plaintiff of the need to
adhere to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See,
e.g., Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d Cir.
2015) ("a pro se complaint. . . must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers;'. . . but we nonetheless review the pleading to
ensure that it has 'sufficient factual matter; accepted
as true; to state a claim to relief that is plausible on
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) does not require that a
complaint contain detailed factual allegations. Nevertheless,
"a plaintiffs obligation to provide the
'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action will not do."
Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
See also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (Rule 8 "requires a
'showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an
entitlement to relief" (citation omitted)). Thus, the
complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient to
raise a plaintiffs right to relief above a speculative level,
so that a claim is "plausible on its face."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. See also West Run
Student Hous. Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat. Bank, 712
F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013). That facial-plausibility
standard is met "when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While
"[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a
'probability requirement'... it asks for more than a
sheer possibility." Id. Rule 12(b)(6) provides
for the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. The defendant, as the
moving party, bears the burden of showing that no claim has
been stated. Animal Science Products, Inc. v. China
Minmetals Corp., 654 F.3d 462, 469 n.9 (3d Cir. 2011).
purposes of a motion to dismiss, the facts alleged in the
complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences
are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. New Jersey
Carpenters & the Trustees Thereof v. Tishman Const. Corp.
of New Jersey, 760 F.3d 297, 302 (3d Cir. 2014).
"Complaints filed pro se are construed liberally, but
even a pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for
relief." Badger v. City of Phila. Office of Prop.
Assessment, 563 Fed.Appx. 152, 154 (3d Cir. 2014)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
deciding a motion to dismiss, a court typically does not
consider matters outside the pleadings. However, a court may
consider documents that are "integral to or explicitly
relied upon in the complaint" or any "undisputedly
authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to
a motion to dismiss if the plaintiffs claims are based on the
document[.]" In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc.
Sec. Litig.,184 F.3d 280, 287 (3d Cir. 1999) (emphasis
and citations omitted); In re Asbestos Prods. Liab.
Litig. (No. VI),822 F.3d 125, 133 n.7 (3d Cir. 2016)
(same). Moreover, "in cases where a pro se plaintiff is
faced with a motion to dismiss, it is appropriate for the
court to consider materials outside of the complaint to the
extent they 'are consistent with ...