Parsons v. United Collections Bureau, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER: Plaintiff's 6 Motion to Remand is DENIED. FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's 6 Motion for Costs, Expenses, and Fees is DENIED. Signed by Chief Judge Martin Reidinger on 11/21/2022. (Pro se litigant served by US Mail.)(khm) Modified text on 11/21/2022. (khm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
CIVIL CASE NO. 1:22-cv-00170-MR-WCM
ERIC DEVON PARSONS,
UNITED COLLECTIONS BUREAU,
INC., doing business as
DECISION AND ORDER
THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand
and Motion for Costs, Expenses, and Fees. [Doc. 6].
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On July 26, 2022, Eric Devon Parsons (“Parsons”) filed this action in
state court in Cleveland County against United Collections Bureau, Inc. d/b/a
UCB, Inc. (“UCB”), alleging that UCB committed both negligent and willful
violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.
[Doc. 1-1]. Specifically, Parsons alleges that UCB obtained his consumer
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report1 from Equifax without a permissible purpose as enumerated in the
FCRA. [Id. at ¶¶ 33-62].
On August 25, 2022,2 UCB filed a Notice of Removal to this Court,
alleging that the case was removable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because
it arose under a federal statute and thus posed a federal question. [Doc. 1].
On September 2, 2022, Parsons filed a Motion to Remand to state court.
[Doc. 6]. On September 16, 2022, UCB filed a Response in Opposition to the
Motion to Remand. [Doc. 8]. Parsons filed a Notice of No Intent to Reply to
UCB’s Response on September 22, 2022. [Doc. 10]. Thus, the matter has
been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal courts have original jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising
under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §
1331. A defendant may remove a civil action from a state court if the action
The FCRA defines a consumer report as: “any written, oral, or other communication of
any information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on a consumer's credit
worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal
characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in
whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer's
eligibility for-(A) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes;
(B) employment purposes; or
(C) any other purpose authorized under section 1681b of this title.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(d).
UCB was served with the Complaint on August 3, 2022; thus, removal is timely pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1). [Doc. 1-2].
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is one “of which the district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The party seeking removal has the burden
to demonstrate that federal jurisdiction is proper. Mulcahey v. Columbia
Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994). Federal courts are
“obliged to construe removal jurisdiction strictly because of the ‘significant
federalism concerns’ implicated.” Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811,
816 (4th Cir. 2004) (en banc) (quoting Mulcahey, 29 F.3d at 151). Therefore,
courts must “resolve all doubts in favor of remand.” Strawn v. AT&T Mobility,
LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). “If federal jurisdiction is doubtful,
a remand is necessary.” Mulcahey, 29 F.3d at 151.
Parsons argues that the case was improperly removed because the
alleged violation of the FCRA is insufficient to confer Article III standing. [Doc.
6-1 at 4-5]. UCB argues that Parsons has alleged a concrete injury-in-fact.
[Doc. 8 at 2-4]. Article III of the United States Constitution “limits the
jurisdiction of federal courts to ‘Cases’ and ‘Controversies.’” Beck v.
McDonald, 848 F.3d 262, 269 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting U.S. Const. art. III, §
2). “One element of the case-or-controversy requirement is that plaintiffs
must establish that they have standing to sue.” Id. (quoting Clapper v.
Amnesty Int’l USA, 568 U.S. 398, 408 (2013)).
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Only such plaintiffs who have suffered a legally cognizable injury have
Article III standing to sue. Garey v. James S. Farrin, P.C., 35 F.4th 917, 921
(4th Cir. 2022). “Congress may, of course, ‘elevat[e] to the status of legally
cognizable injuries concrete, de facto injuries that were previously
inadequate in law.’” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Lujan v. Defs. of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 578 (1992)); see also Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490,
514 (1975) (“Congress may create a statutory right or entitlement the alleged
deprivation of which can confer standing to sue even where the plaintiff
would have suffered no judicially cognizable injury in the absence of statute.”
(citations omitted)). Congress’s ability to identify and elevate previously
unactionable injuries, however, does not mean that a plaintiff automatically
suffers a legally cognizable injury “whenever a statute grants [the plaintiff] a
statutory right and purports to authorize [the plaintiff] to sue to vindicate that
right.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330, 341 (2016). Indeed, “Article III
standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory
violation.” Id.; see also TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, 141 S. Ct. 2190, 2205
(2021) (“Only those plaintiffs who have been concretely harmed by a
defendant’s statutory violation may sue that private defendant over that
violation in federal court.” (emphasis in original)).
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To establish that a statutory violation “identifies an injury sufficient for
standing purposes,” the party invoking federal jurisdiction may “identif[y] a
close historical or common-law analogue” for the plaintiff's asserted injury.
Garey, 35 F.4th at 921 (quoting TransUnion, 141 S. Ct. at 2204). Such
analogue must be a harm “for which courts have ‘traditionally’ provided a
remedy.” Id. (quoting TransUnion, 141 S. Ct. at 2204). “[A]n exact duplicate
in American history and tradition,” however, is not required. Id. at 922
(quoting TransUnion, 141 S. Ct. at 2204). Where a close historical or
common-law analogue has been established, the plaintiff “has standing even
if the precise injury would not, absent the statute, be sufficient for Article III
standing purposes.” Id. at 921.
Here, Parsons alleges that UCB accessed his consumer report without
a permissible purpose. Although the Fourth Circuit has not yet addressed
whether such a violation of the FCRA constitutes a concrete injury-in fact,
other courts have reached that conclusion, noting that such an alleged
violation is most closely related to the tort of invasion of privacy. See
Persinger v. Sw. Credit Systems, L.P., 20 F.4th 1184, 1192 (7th Cir. 2021);
Nayab v. Cap. One Bank (USA), N.A., 942 F.3d 480, 490-93 (9th Cir. 2019);
In re Nickelodeon Consumer Priv. Litig., 827 F.3d 262, 273-74 (3d Cir. 2016).
The court in Persinger noted that, of the four “theories of wrongdoing”
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traditionally encompassed by the tort of invasion of privacy, accessing a
consumer report, or information from that report, without a consumer’s
permission and without a proper purpose was most analogous to intrusion
upon seclusion. Persinger, 20 F.4th at 1192. The Persinger court compared
this unauthorized inquiry into a consumer’s financial affairs as akin to the
“unlawful inspection of one’s mail, wallet, or bank account.” Id. Further,
although not in the context of the FCRA, the Fourth Circuit has recognized
that invasion of privacy has “long provided a basis for recovery at common
law” and has held that statutory violations closely related to the invasion of
privacy are sufficiently concrete injuries to confer standing. Garey, 35 F.4th
Accordingly, the Court concludes that Parsons has sufficiently alleged
a concrete injury-in-fact. Parsons alleges that, much like peering into
another’s bank account without his permission, UCB accessed his consumer
information from Equifax without a proper purpose. Because of the close
relationship between this alleged violation of the FCRA and the common law
harm of invasion of privacy, Parsons’s FCRA claim identifies an injury
sufficient to support Article III standing. Therefore, the Motion to Remand is
denied. As the action was properly removed, Parsons’s Motion for Costs,
Expenses, and Fees incurred as a result of the removal is also denied.
Case 1:22-cv-00170-MR-WCM Document 14 Filed 11/21/22 Page 6 of 7
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that the Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand
[Doc. 6] is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Plaintiff’s Motion for Costs,
Expenses, and Fees [Doc. 6] is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed: November 21, 2022
Case 1:22-cv-00170-MR-WCM Document 14 Filed 11/21/22 Page 7 of 7
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