Barakat v. Equifax Information Services, LLC et al
ORDER granting 50 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 51 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 53 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow. (MLan)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 16-10718
SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
ARTHUR J. TARNOW
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES,
LLC, ET. AL.,
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MONA K. MAJZOUB
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [50, 51, 53]
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint  on March 21, 2016, alleging that
Defendants Capital One Bank USA, N.A. (“Capital One”), Experian Information
Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”), and Equifax Information Services, LLC (“Equifax”)
negligently and willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) by
failing to correct Plaintiff’s alleged misleading credit report. Defendants filed
Motions for Summary Judgment [50, 51, 53] on November 7, 2016. Plaintiff filed
a response  on December 1, 2016 and Defendants replied [61, 62, 63] on
December 15, 2016.
Defendants also filed a Joint Motion to Exclude Plaintiff’s Expert  on
November 7, 2016. The Magistrate Judge granted that Motion on August 2, 2017
, and all evidence presented by Plaintiff’s evidence is thus excluded from his
response brief to Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment.
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The Court finds the motion suitable for determination without a hearing with
respect to all of Plaintiff’s claims and in accord with Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). For the
reasons stated below, Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment [50, 51, 53] are
Plaintiff opened an account with Capital One in March 2009 and transferred
outstanding balances in the amount of $30,000 from two other credit cards to this
account. Plaintiff failed to make the payment due on August 25, 2011, and failed to
make any payments after that date. Therefore, Capital One charged off the Account
in February 2012. In its monthly reporting to the Credit Reporting Agency
(“CRAs”), Defendants Equifax and Experian, Capital One began reporting the
status of Plaintiff’s Account as being charged off.
The reporting method used by Capital One was consistent with the industry
standard Metro 2 Format, established by the Consumer Data Industry Association.
[See 50-8; 51-4 at ¶¶23-25; 51-5 at ¶30]. Defendants Experian and Equifax
reported Plaintiff’s account as charged off based on the information provided by
Capital One. The reporting on Plaintiff’s account is seen below:
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Plaintiff sent Defendant Experian a dispute letter on November 24, 2015,
stating, in pertinent part:
Further, you are reporting multiple charge offs under the payment
history section of my credit report on the below trade line. This is
false as an account cannot be charged off more than once. Please
remove the multiple charge offs from my credit report on the
following trade line:
*Capital One Bank USA, NA Account Number ********
[50-3]. On December 1, 2015 Plaintiff sent a dispute letter to Equifax, stating that
the Account had “multiple charge offs under the payment history section of my
credit report…this is false as an account cannot be charged off more than once”
and requested that the multiple charges be removed. [51-3 at 9]. In response to
these disputes, Defendants reviewed the information provided and investigated
Plaintiff’s claims with Capital One. [51-3; 50-4]. Capital One responded to both
Defendants that the status of Plaintiff’s payment history profile, account status and
payment rating was accurate. [50-4; 51-3]. Equifax and Experian provided Plaintiff
with the results of this investigation on December 5, 2015 and December 22, 2015
respectively. [50-5; 51-3].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show
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that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The moving party
has the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact,
which may be accomplished by demonstrating that the nonmoving party lacks
evidence to support an essential element of its case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court must construe the evidence and all reasonable
inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
A genuine issue for trial exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
Defendants all argue that Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed because the
report is technically accurate, and there is no evidence presented by Plaintiff,
beyond personal speculation, that anyone would be or was misled by the contents
of the report.1
Defendants also argue that Plaintiff has not shown any injury, cannot demonstrate
that he suffered any actual damages due to the credit reporting, and cannot present
any evidence that there were any negligent or willful violations of FCRA. The
Court need not reach these points because Plaintiff cannot, as an initial matter,
present any evidence that the report at issue was inaccurate.
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Plaintiff brings his claims under FCRA 15 U.S.C. §1681s-2(b) against
Capital One, and under §1681e(b) against Equifax and Experian. Under §1681s2(b), upon notice of dispute regarding the completeness or accuracy of any
information provided by a person to a CRA, the furnisher must (1) conduct an
investigation; (2) review all relevant information provided by the CRA; (3) report
the results of the investigation to the CRA; (4) report any inaccuracies if found to
all CRAs who may have received the inaccurate information; and (5) correct any
inaccuracies found in the information. 15 U.S.C. §1681e(b) requires CRAs to
“follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the
information concerning the individual about whom the report relates” when
preparing consumer reports. Therefore, for the claims against all Defendants, the
issue of whether they can be considered “inaccurate” under the law determines the
viability of Plaintiff’s claims.
Defendants contend that the standard in the Sixth Circuit for “accuracy”
under the FCRA is whether it is “technically accurate” or “accurate on its face.”
Dickens v. Trans Union Corp., 18 Fed.Appx. 315, 318 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Cahlin v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 936 F.2d 1151, 1156 (11th Cir.
1991)). Plaintiff argues that the correct standard is that a report is inaccurate, even
if it contain correct information, if it “provides information in such a manner as to
create a materially misleading impression.” Boggio v. USAA Fed. Sav. Bank, 696
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F.3d 611, 617 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Saunders v. Branch Banking & Trust Co. of
Va., 526 F.3d 142, 148 (4th Cir.2008)). Defendants argue that this is mere dicta
and not binding, because the case addressed the issue of whether a consumer has
the right to bring a private cause of action under FCRA directly against a creditor
under 15 U.S.C. §11681s-2(b).
The Court does not need to decide the issue of the standard of accuracy to
apply in this case because, under either test, Plaintiff has not created any issue of
fact that the report is misleading. In his deposition, Plaintiff admitted that, due to
financial problems, he stopped paying on the Capital One account at issue and that
the account became delinquent in September 2011. [50-6 at 28; 58]. He also admits
that the account was charged off by Capital One in February 2012. [Id at 62].
Plaintiff does not take issue with the fact that the account was reported as being
charged off, or with the accuracy of the report. Rather, Plaintiff contends that the
report is misleading; opining that, by reporting the charge off each month during
the duration of time the account was charged off, made it appear that the account
was actually being charged off every month, rather than reflecting a single charge
off that remained active. [Id at 216; 120].
Plaintiff testified that this was just his personal opinion after looking at the
report himself, and that he had no factual bases or documents to support this
opinion. [Id at 32]. He further admitted that no one ever informed him that they
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thought the report was inaccurate, informed him they were misled by the payment
history report, or that they viewed the report as showing his account being charged
off multiple times. [Id at 22; 148; 178]. Plaintiff also admitted that he did not know
how people in the credit reporting industry viewed the charge off reporting, but
suspected that they viewed it adversely to his opinion. He further indicated that he
was never told this. [Id at 201]. Plaintiff offers no authority to support his assertion
that charge-offs can only be listed once, or that listing the charge-off in multiple
months created an inaccuracy or is misleading in any way.
Courts have repeatedly held that a personal opinion is “mere speculation that
the notation was misleading” and is therefore insufficient to support a claim of
inaccuracy under the FCRA. See e.g. Dickens v. Trans Union Corp., 18 F.App'x
315, 318 (6th Cir.2001) (“[The plaintiff's] mere speculation that the notation was
misleading, without more, is insufficient as a matter of law to establish a prima
facie case of inaccuracy in violation of § 1681e(b).”); Bailey v. Equifax Info.
Servs., LLC, No. 13-cv-10377, 2013 WL 3305710 (E.D. Mich. July 1, 2013)
(holding that conclusory allegations that the report is inaccurate and misleading is
insufficient); Elsady v. Rapid Global Bus. Solutions, Inc., No. 09-cv-11659, 2010
WL 2740154 (E.D. Mich. July 12, 2010) (“[A] plaintiff's mere assertion that a
report was misleading, or even his proof that a lay person would be mislead, is
insufficient to establish that a report was misleading and, therefore, inaccurate. At
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a minimum, a plaintiff must prove that a creditor or consumer of credit reports
would be mislead. When the recipient was not mislead, such a showing will be
extremely difficult.”). Further, in a case nearly identical factually to this one, the
misleading nature of a charge-off being listed over many months was found not to
be inaccurate or misleading under FRCA when the Plaintiff failed to present any
evidence other than her own personal belief. Shaw v. Equifax Info. Sols., Inc., 204
F. Supp. 3d 956, 961 (E.D. Mich. 2016).
Plaintiff has provided no authority supporting his speculative opinion and
thus has failed to create any dispute of fact as to the accuracy of the report.
IT IS ORDERED that Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment [50, 51,
53] are GRANTED.
Dated: August 29, 2017
s/Arthur J. Tarnow
Arthur J. Tarnow
Senior United States District Judge
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