Experian Prevails in FCRA Case where Plaintiff Failed to Introduce Evidence of Actual Damages

Experian Prevails in FCRA Case where Plaintiff Failed to Introduce Evidence of Actual Damages

Plaintiff/Chpater 13 Debtor  sued Experian Information Services under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

At the time she field her petition, Debtor was underwater on her mortgage and could no longer afford the monthly payment. Her modified Chapter 13 plan indicated that she was surrendering the home to Bank of America in full satisfaction of BOA’s claim.

The Bankruptcy Court entered a Discharge of Debtor in January of 2015. The Debtor understood that filing a Bankruptcy case would lower her credit score.

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Experian is a credit reporting agency (“CRA”) whose  business consists of compiling consumer credit information and  providing it to others. Experian communicates with creditors  (also known as “data furnishers”) through an industry-wide  automated online system called “e-Oscar.” The FCRA provides  that a consumer may notify a CRA of a dispute concerning the  accuracy of information it maintains in the consumer’s credit  file, and requires that the CRA then conduct a reasonable  reinvestigation of the file.

A month or so  after Discharge, the Debtor wrote to Experian and asked it to update her credit file to reflect the discharged status of the debts listed on the attached Schedules D, E and F.

While Experian updated the record concerning Discover, it did not do so for Bank of America (BOA). For the BOA debt,  Experian listed the account balance of “$92,705 as of Apr 2014,” and a status of “Open.  $1,248 past due as of Apr. 2014.”

Debtor sent another letter to Experian asking that it be corrected to show a $0 balance.  At this time, however, the BOA  account was already reporting as discharged in Chapter 13
bankruptcy with a $0 recent balance, no monthly payment obligation, and no past due amount.

Experian  sent Debtor an updated disclosure displaying the information it
had in its credit file on her, including the updated accounts.

A few months later, Debtor applied for a credit card from BOA, but was denied based on the bankruptcy filing.

Debtor’s Complaint alleges that, as a result of Experian’s  actions, she suffered damages including the loss of credit, the  loss of ability to purchase and benefit from a credit line, certified mail expenses, other frustration and aggravation, loss  of time and money from meeting with her attorneys, and emotional  distress. Webb did not seek treatment for depression or  emotional distress (opting to “pray[] a lot” instead), nor did she write the dispute letters or pay her attorneys any money to  litigate this case.

The Court pointed out that The FCRA “is not a strict  liability statute.” Absent a causal relationship “between the violation of the statute and the loss of credit, or some
other harm, a plaintiff cannot obtain an award of ‘actual  damages.’”

The Court granted Experian’s Motion for Summary Judgment since Debtor put forth no evidence of actual damages or that Experian knowingly or with reckless disregard violated its FCRA obligations.

Webb v Experian March 16 2017

 

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