Buell v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc. et al
OPINION AND ORDER: Plaintiffs motion to reconsider 83 is GRANTED. The Clerks entry of judgment in Defendants favor 81 is VACATED. Signed by Chief Judge Holly A Brady on 11/13/2023. (sej)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FORT WAYNE DIVISION
SOLUTIONS, INC., et al.,
Cause No. 1:22-CV-14-HAB
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff borrowed money from Ford Motor Company and didn’t pay it back. On those facts
the Court found that Defendants, all credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”), did not violate the Fair
Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) by reporting a debt to Ford on Plaintiff’s credit report. (ECF No.
80). The Court made this finding despite a state court order dismissing a suit by Ford against
Plaintiff, presumably to collect the debt. Plaintiff disagrees with the Court’s conclusion and has
moved the Court to reconsider. (ECF No. 83). That motion is fully briefed (ECF Nos. 85, 85) and
ready for ruling.
Plaintiff alleges that the CRAs “prepared at least one credit report concerning [Plaintiff]
indicating that she owed a balance, thousands of dollars, concerning a Ford account when no
balance was owed.” (ECF No. 4 at 4). In 2020 and 2021 Plaintiff sent letters to the CRAs disputing
the debt. Many of those letters attached a one-page Order of Dismissal from the Dekalb County,
Indiana, Superior Court in Ford Motor Credit Company, LLC v. Angela R. McLimans, Cause No.
17D01-1811-CC-449. That order states, in its entirety:
(ECF No. 56-4 at 4) (“Dismissal Order”). Plaintiff repeatedly asserts that the Dismissal Order
“secured a determination resolving her liability for the debt.” (ECF No. 72 at 8).
Motion to Reconsider Standard
A Rule 59(e)1 motion “may be granted only if there has been a manifest error of fact or
law, or if there is newly discovered evidence that was not previously available.” Robinson v.
Waterman, 1 F.4th 480, 483 (7th Cir. 2021). A motion to correct errors “does not allow a party to
introduce new evidence or advance arguments that could and should have been presented to the
district court prior to the judgment.” A&C Constr. & Installation, Co. WLL v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co.,
963 F.3d 705, 709 (7th Cir. 2020) (quoting Bordelon v. Chi. Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d
524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000)). This Court’s “opinions are not intended as mere first drafts, subject to
revision and reconsideration at a litigant’s pleasure.” Quaker Alloy Casting Co. v. Gulfco Indus.,
Inc., 123 F.R.D. 282, 288 (N.D. Ill. 1988).
Plaintiff also moves under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(d). Because Plaintiff alleges errors of law, the Court will treat the
motion as one under Rule 59(e). Seng-Tiong Ho v. Taflove, 648 F.3d 489, 495 (7th Cir. 2011) (“An error of law is a
basis for altering or amending the judgment under Rule 59(e), but it is not explicitly recognized as a basis for relief
under Rule 60(b).”).
The Seventh Circuit’s Chaitoff Decision Controls
Let the Court be clear from the start: it finds no error in its conclusion or analysis under the
law as it existed when this Court granted judgment on the pleadings in Defendants’ favor. Plaintiff
argues that this Court ignored Chuluunbat v. Experian Infor. Solutions, Inc, 4 F.4th 562 (7th Cir.
2021), and Denan v. TransUnion LLC, 959 F.3d 290 (7th Cir. 2020), which Plaintiff claims
“controlled the outcome in this case.” (ECF No. 83 at 4). Those cases distinguish between a legal
and factual inaccuracy: CRAs have no duty under the FCRA to correct the former but have a duty
to correct the latter. But for the reasons set out in this Court’s challenged order, Plaintiff’s credit
report was not “inaccurate” under then-existing law. Plaintiff took out a loan that she did not repay
and reporting that fact was not inaccurate—legally or factually.
Since this Court ruled, the Seventh Circuit has changed what it means for a report to be
accurate under 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681e(b) and 1681i, the sections of the FCRA under which Plaintiff
sues. In Chaitoff v. Experian Infor. Solutions, Inc, 79 F.4th 800 (7th Cir. 2023), the Seventh Circuit
reversed the entry of summary judgment for a CRA on a FCRA claim. In that case, Chaitoff fell
behind on his mortgage after losing his job. He agreed to a Trial Period Plan (“TPP”) with his
mortgage servicer, Ocwen, under which he would make three reduced payments and his mortgage
would be brought current. Those payments were in May, June, and July 2017. But under the TPP,
the payments in those months would be credited against the three oldest delinquencies rather than
toward those months’ mortgage balance. Chaitoff successfully made the payments, and his loan
Chaitoff later sought a mortgage to buy a different home but was denied. He obtained a
copy of his credit report which showed that he was delinquent on his mortgage until August 2017—
when the modification under the TPP occurred. Chaitoff challenged the report, sending a copy of
the TPP offer letter to the CRA. The CRA confirmed the debt with Ocwen and stood by the report.
Chaitoff then sued under the FCRA. The district court granted summary judgment to the CRA,
reasoning that the report was not inaccurate and that, even if it were, Chaitoff’s complaints
addressed a legal inaccuracy.
The Seventh Circuit first addressed the accuracy of reporting Chaitoff’s mortgage as
delinquent in May, June, and July 2017. It quickly concluded that the report was accurate.
Although Chaitoff may have sent Ocwen payments in each of May, June, and July
2017, those payments were applied to earlier delinquent months in accordance with
the TPP’s terms. Experian’s reporting of those three months as delinquent was
accurate beyond any doubt. The district court recognized as much, and we agree.
Chaitoff, 79 F.4th at 811.
Where the Seventh Circuit parted ways with the district court was whether the TPP should
have been included in the credit report. Resolving an unanswered question in this Circuit, the
appellate court found that “[a] credit report is inaccurate under § 1681e(b) and § 1681i(a) if it omits
accurate information that could reasonably be expected to adversely affect a consumer’s
creditworthiness.” Id. at 812. Because the Seventh Circuit found that the omission of the TPP
affected Chaitoff’s creditworthiness, and because it concluded that the TPP’s existence was a
factual issue, the appellate court found that the CRA was not entitled to summary judgment on
whether it had conducted a reasonable investigation into Chaitoff’s alleged errors. Id. at 822.
The Court finds Chaitoff to apply. Plaintiff took out a loan that she did not repay. Reporting
that fact is “accurate beyond any doubt.” But the Dismissal Order undeniably provides context. Its
inclusion or omission may affect a lender’s credit decision. And the existence of the Dismissal
Order is purely factual. Under Chaitoff, that is enough for Plaintiff to proceed on her FCRA claim.
For these reasons, Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider (ECF No. 83) is GRANTED. The
Clerk’s entry of judgment in Defendants’ favor (ECF No. 81) is VACATED.
SO ORDERED on November 13, 2023.
s/ Holly A. Brady
JUDGE HOLLY A. BRADY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?