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Jones v. United States Department of Agriculture

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 7, 2018

KYISHA JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [#8]

          Denise Page Hood Chief Judge, United States District Court

         I. Procedural Background

         On May 12, 2017, Plaintiff Kyisha Jones (“Jones”) brought this action against Defendant United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), alleging that the USDA provided false information on Jones's consumer reports in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq. Jones requests monetary damages, among other things. The matter is before this Court on the USDA's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). (Doc # 8) Jones filed a Response on November 2, 2017. (Doc # 11) On November 16, 2017, the USDA filed a Reply. (Doc # 12)

         II. Factual Background

         Jones was charged by the USDA for health insurance costs. (Doc # 1, Pg ID 2) In March 2016, Jones was contacted by the USDA and made aware that she had an outstanding balance on unpaid medical insurance bills. (Id.) Jones subsequently made payment arrangements with the USDA, and attempted to get the charges waived. (Id.) During October 2016, Jones paid the entire outstanding balance alleged by the USDA. (Id.)

         Jones claims to have discovered false, derogatory information being reported by the USDA on her consumer reports during December 2016. (Id.) Jones alleges the USDA was reporting that Jones still owed a balance, and that she was 120 days late in making several payments. (Id.) Jones disputed the allegedly false information being distributed by the USDA. (Id.)

         Jones also sent a description of her dispute regarding the allegedly false USDA information and an explanation to each of the three major credit reporting agencies. (Doc # 1, Pg ID 3) Jones requested that the credit reporting agencies reinvestigate and correct the allegedly false USDA information pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1681i. (Id.) Each of the three credit reporting agencies responded to Jones by requesting that the USDA verify the allegedly false information. (Id.) The USDA responded by verifying the accuracy of a significant portion of the allegedly false information. (Id.) Jones alleges the USDA failed to reasonably reinvestigate under 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b), and that the failure was either willful, or alternatively, negligent. (Id.) Jones alleges she has suffered, and continues to suffer, damages as a result of the USDA's failure to abide by the requirements of 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b).

         The USDA argues that Jones's case should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the FCRA does not include an express and unequivocal waiver of sovereign immunity for claims brought against an entity of the United States. For the reasons set forth below, the USDA's Motion is DENIED.

         III. Standard of Review

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) provides for the dismissal of an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. A Rule 12(b)(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction can challenge the sufficiency of the pleading itself (facial attack) or the factual existence of subject matter jurisdiction (factual attack). Cartwright v. Garner, 751 F.3d 752, 759-60 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir. 1994). In the case of a facial attack, and the court takes the allegations of the complaint as true to determine whether the plaintiff has alleged a basis for subject matter jurisdiction. Id.

         In the case of a factual attack, a court has broad discretion with respect to what evidence to consider in deciding whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, including evidence outside of the pleadings, and has the power to weigh the evidence and determine the effect of that evidence on the court's authority to hear the case. Id. Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that subject matter jurisdiction exists. DLX, Inc. v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 381 F.3d 511, 516 (6th Cir. 2004).

         IV. Analysis

         The USDA makes a facial attack on the complaint, arguing that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear Jones's FCRA claim against the USDA because the FCRA does not waive sovereign immunity for claims brought against an entity of the federal government.

         Consent is a prerequisite for jurisdiction over a suit brought against the United States. United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212 (1983). When the United States waives sovereign immunity by statute, the waiver must be expressed unequivocally in the statutory text. Lane v. Pena, 518 U.S. 187, 192 (1996). A waiver of sovereign immunity will not be implied. United States v. Nordic Vill. Inc., 503 U.S. 30, 34 (1992) (citations omitted). Any ambiguities should be resolved in favor of the United States. Id. A federal ...


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