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ZAHRAN v. TRANSUNION CORP.

March 28, 2003

ROBIN ZAHRAN AND KAREN ZAHRAN, PLAINTIFFS
v.
TRANSUNION CORP., EQUIFAX, AND LACHAPPLE CREDIT SERVICE INC., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald A. Guzman, United States Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case is now before the Court upon defendant Trans Union's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted as to all Counts of the complaint

STATEMENTOF FACTS

Pursuant to Local Rule 56, all facts contained herein are either undisputed and supported by accompanying documents or deemed admitted through a failure to properly respond to the allegation by the opposing party.*fn1

Trans Union is a consumer reporting agency ("CRA") as that term is defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681a. Plaintiffs Robin and Karen Zahran ("Zabrans"), who live in Oak Brook, Illinois, own approximately one thousand acres of property in Denmark, Wisconsin, including parcels used for farming as well as rental properties. Over the course of several years, the Zahrans have been involved in a number of lawsuits. A variety of tax liens and releases of tax liens have been recorded in their names in Illinois. The Zahrans have also been involved in numerous disputes with various creditors.

Beginning in February, 2000, the Zahrans commenced a series of disputes regarding information contained in their Trans Union credit reports. At that time, their reports included tax liens, civil judgments, a foreclosure judgment, a paid collection account, and accounts showing late payments to various creditors. Trans Union timely investigated each of the Zabrans claims and corrected or voluntarily changed a number of them. Not all of the Zahrans disputed accounts are the subject of this action. Discovery revealed that most of the disputed adverse credit references were accurately reported at all times by Trans Union. The errors in reporting, if any, were attributable to the errors of third parties such as the Court of Brown County.

The following items are the only ones in which some of the account information was not correct, as originally reported by Trans Union:

Civil Judgment, docket Accurate but for judgment ¶¶ 19-22 #94LM3466 (El-Masry amount: $18,956 listed Judgment instead of the correct amount of $11,974
Civil Judgment, docket This judgment was entered, ¶¶ 23,24 #98C1221 (Wegner but the later reports did not Implement Judgment) show that it had been vacated on 9/10/1998
Denmark State Bank Accurate as to all terms ¶¶ 28-36 #1505917915 except for the monthly payment amount
The Wegner judgment:

On April 6, 1998, a default judgment against Robin Zahran and in favor of Wegner Implement, Inc., was entered in Small Claims Court in Brown County, Wisconsin. This judgment was reported to Trans Union. Subsequently, the judgment was vacated on September 1, 1998 on the Zahrans' motion. The order vacating the judgment was not reported to Trans Union by the court or the Zahrans. As a result, prior to the Zabrans' dispute of this item in February, 2000, Trans Union did not report that this judgment had been vacated. Though Trans Union, which obtains public record information from third party vendors, requests information on vacated judgments, it did not receive notice of the September 1998 order vacating the Wegner judgment until February 2000. (Trans Union's Statement of Facts, hereinafter "Facts," ¶ 75.)

The El-Masry judgment:

In 1998, Robin Zahran was a defendant and counter-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by Youseff El-Masry in the Circuit Court of Kane County, Illinois (Case No. 94 LM 3466). A judgment in favor of El-Masry, for $11,974.47, was entered against Robin Zabran on March 23, 1998. Zahran's 1999 appeal of some order was ultimately dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction. Robin Zahran never paid the judgment. Though the Zabrans claimed that this judgment should not be reported at all, as it was not final, they are incorrect and the only inaccuracy in reporting was that the judgment amount was incorrectly listed as $18,956. This was changed to reflect the correct amount within a short time. Otherwise, all information related to this item was at all times accurate.

Denmark State Bank:

Denmark State Bank held a series of mortgage notes on a portion of Zahrans' Wisconsin property. At various times Denmark State Bank reported that the loan terms called for monthly payments of $1,100. In fact, during the early years of this loan the Zabrans were required to pay $1,100 per month. At some point, the term of this loan was converted to a single annual payment. Nonetheless, Denmark State Bank or its computer services vendor (Metavante) periodically reinserted $1,100 as an amount in the field reporting monthly payment terms on the computer tapes sent to Trans Union. Denmark State Bank reported the $1,100 monthly payment term concerning the loan to Trans Union in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Apart from this term, all other information concerning this account was accurate as reported.

Plaintiffs filed this action in the Circuit Court of Cook County on February 9, 2001, and it was removed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on March 9, 2001. The Defendant filed the current motion for summary judgment of the complaint in its entirety on April 26, 2002.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions of file, together with affidavits, if any, show 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) (2003). Material facts are those facts which the substantive law identifies as "facts that might affect the outcome of the suit." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute concerning material facts is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. The party seeking summary judgment carries the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the position of the non-moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The non-moving party must then set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue of material facts and that the moving party is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

When the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on an issue, that party may not rest on the pleadings and must instead show that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Vanasco v. National-Louis University, 137 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 1998). The opposing party may not merely allege in a general or conclusory fashion that issues of fact exist or might exist. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e); see Bragg v. Navistar Int'l Transp. Corp., 164 F.3d 373, 378 (7th Cir. 1998). Finally, even where a factual dispute exists, unless the resolution of the disputed fact is outcome determinative, summary judgment will not be precluded. Harris Trust and Sav. Bank v. Edelson, 859 F.2d 553 (7th Cir. 1988).

The plaintiffs in this case are proceeding pro se. A pro se complaint is held to a "less stringent" standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). In this case, plaintiffs' submissions in response to the defendant's motion for summary judgment comes close to violating Local Rule 56.1 for not properly citing and authenticating the documents they rely on to support their allegations. Nevertheless, the Court has evaluated plaintiffs arguments in response to defendant's motion for summary judgment.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA")

The FCRA was enacted to ensure "consumer reporting agencies adopt reasonable procedures for meeting the needs of commerce for consumer credit, personnel, insurance, and other information in a manner which is fair and equitable to the consumer, with regard to the confidentiality, accuracy, relevancy, and proper utilization of such information." 15 U.S.C. § 1681 (b). The Zahrans assert that Trans Union violated §§ 1681e, 1681i, & 1681n of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. Section 1681e(b) provides that "[w]henever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates." 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b). Section 1681i(a)(5) provides that "[a] consumer reporting agency [must] maintain reasonable procedures designed to prevent the reappearance in a consumer's file, and in consumer ...


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