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Smith v. Trans Union, LLC

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

May 10, 2019

BRUCE SMITH, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
TRANS UNION LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT TRANS UNION, LLC’S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (DOC. 16) AND VERIZON WIRELESS PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS, L.P.’S JOINDER IN THE MOTION (DOC. 24)

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Bruce Smith, Jr. claims that a notation on his credit report that accounts of Defendants Verizon Wireless Personal Communication, L.P. (“Verizon”) and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”) were “included in bankruptcy” rather than “discharged in bankruptcy,” violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act, (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 seq. Now before the court is Defendant Trans Union LLC’s (“Trans Union’) motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), which Defendant Verizon has joined (collectively “Defendants”). Defendant Wells Fargo has not joined in the motion. Because there is no meaningful distinction between “included in bankruptcy” and “discharged in bankruptcy,” and for additional reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motion shall be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on June 17, 2016. On October 4, 2016, Plaintiff received an order of discharge. On May 19, 2018, Plaintiff reviewed his credit disclosure prepared by Trans Union, a consumer credit reporting agency, and claims that his Wells Fargo and Verizon accounts (the “Accounts” or “trade lines”) reported “included in bankruptcy” rather than “discharged in bankruptcy.” On June 29, 2018, Plaintiff sent a dispute letter to Trans Union asking it to report the trade lines as “discharged in bankruptcy.” Plaintiff claims that Trans Union failed to conduct a reasonable reinvestigation and continued to report the Accounts without the notation of “bankruptcy discharge.” Plaintiff does not dispute that the public record section of his credit file reports his Chapter 7 Bankruptcy as discharged. Also, Plaintiff has not alleged that any creditors, including Verizon or Well Fargo, have been misled by the notation “included in bankruptcy,” only that they might be, and that this has caused him anxiety. Plaintiff does not allege that he was denied credit based upon his credit report.

         Plaintiff also alleges he never received a copy of the Investigation Results. In support of its motion for judgment on the pleadings, Trans Union has attached a copy of the Investigation Results. (Doc. 16-1). Those results report that Plaintiff’s Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is “discharged” and verified the Accounts as “included in bankruptcy” with no account or past due balances and listing the dates closed. Plaintiff argues this court should not consider the Investigation Results as they were not part of his Complaint, but does not dispute the authenticity of the Investigation Results, nor does he dispute that he references the reinvestigation of his dispute in his Complaint.

         Plaintiff filed a six count Complaint. Counts I through IV allege that Wells Fargo and Verizon negligently and willfully failed to conduct a proper reinvestigation of Plaintiff’s dispute as required by 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b). Counts V and VI allege that Trans Union reported false, misleading and inaccurate information in the consumer credit report, failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure accuracy of the information, and failed to conduct a reasonable reinvestigation of his dispute in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b) and § 1681i. Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages under § 1681n.

         II. Standard of Law

         The same standard applies to Rule 12(c) motions as motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Ross, Brovins & Oehmke, P.C. v. Lexis Nexis Group, 463 F.3d 478, 487 (6th Cir. 2006). Rule 12(b)(6) allows the Court to make an assessment as to whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. Under the Supreme Court’s articulation of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-56 (2007), the court must construe the complaint in favor of the plaintiff, accept the allegations of the complaint as true, and determine whether plaintiff’s factual allegations present plausible claims. “‘[N]aked assertions’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement’” are insufficient to “‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 570). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, plaintiff’s pleading for relief must provide “‘more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’” D’Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 383 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Even though the complaint need not contain “detailed” factual allegations, its “‘factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true.’” New Albany Tractor, Inc. v. Louisville Tractor, Inc., 650 F.3d 1046, 1051 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         III. Analysis

         A. Investigation Report

         Before undertaking an analysis of the sufficiency of the Complaint, the court first addresses whether in doing so this court may consider the Investigation Report mentioned, but not attached to the Complaint, and submitted by Trans Union as part of its motion to dismiss. (Doc. 16-1). As a general rule, matters outside the pleadings may not be considered in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion without converting the motion into one for summary judgment under Rule 56. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). However, when “‘a document is referred to in the complaint and is central to the plaintiff's claim’ ... ‘the defendant may submit an authentic copy to the court to be considered on a motion to dismiss, and the court's consideration of the document does not require conversion of the motion to one for summary judgment.’ ” Greenberg v. Life Ins. Co., 177 F.3d 507, 514 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting 11 JAMES WM. MOORE ET AL., MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE § 56.30[4] (3d ed. 1998)). Here, it is appropriate to consider the Investigation Report attached to Trans Union’s motion to dismiss, as it is mentioned in the Complaint, is central to Plaintiff’s case, and Plaintiff has not challenged the authenticity or accuracy of the document, but portends that he did not receive a copy of it prior to receiving Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiff has had the opportunity to respond to the Report in his response brief. However, even if the court does not consider the Investigation Report, the court reaches the same conclusion here.

         B. Accuracy of the Credit Report

         Plaintiff brings his claims under the FCRA 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b) against Verizon and Wells Fargo, and under 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b) against Trans Union. Section 1681s-2(b) applies to furnishers of information to consumer reporting agencies, like Verizon and Wells Fargo. Under § 1681s-2(b), upon notice of a dispute regarding the completeness or accuracy of any information provided by a person to a credit reporting agency, the furnisher must (1) conduct an investigation; (2) review all relevant information provided to the credit reporting agency; (3) report the results of the investigation to the credit reporting agency; (4) report any inaccuracies if found to all credit reporting agencies who may have received the inaccurate information; and (5) correct any inaccuracies found in the information. Id.; see Barakat v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, No. 16-10718, 2017 WL 3720439, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 29, 2017). Section 1681e(b) of the FCRA governs the responsibilities and liability of consumer reporting agencies, penalizes promulgation of inaccurate reports, and states:

Whenever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the ...

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