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MOLTON v. EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS

January 21, 2004.

SONNJA MOLTON, Plaintiff,
v.
EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MATHEW KENNELLY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Sonnja Molton sued Experian Information Solutions, Inc., CBC Credit Services, First National Bank of Marin ("FNBM"), and Marlin Integrated, claiming violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. Molton settled her claims against CBC Credit Services, FNBM and Marlin Integrated, and they were dismissed from the case on May 29, 2003. The remaining defendant, Experian, a credit reporting company, has moved for summary judgment on the ground that it did not report any inaccurate information about Molton's credit status. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Experian's motion.

Facts

  The facts relevant to resolving this case are not in dispute. Molton has admitted most of the Page 2 facts outlined by Experian in its Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Material Facts, which we will summarize.*fn1 Molton held a credit card issued by FNBM. Def.'s Facts ¶ 34. Molton's account became 30 days past due in July 2000; 60 days past due in August 2000; 90 days past due in September 2000; 120 days past due in October 2000; and 150 days past due in November 2000. Id. ¶ 36. FNBM "charged off the account on December 16, 2000 in the amount of $702.28. Id. ¶¶ 35, 37. Molton owed the balance of $702.28 in full, and FNBM forwarded the balance to Allied Interstate, a collection agency. Id. ¶¶ 37-38.

  Molton called Experian on November 8, 2001 and requested a copy of her credit file, which Experian sent to her that day. Id. ¶ 6. Molton called Experian on December 10, 2001, saying that the FNBM account was not hers. Id. ¶ 7. Experian sent a Consumer Dispute Verification ("CDV") to FNBM describing Molton's claim as "Consumer States: Not mine." Id. ¶ 8. On December 24, 2001, FNBM verified that Molton was liable for the account and that the account's status was correctly reported as charged-off in the amount of $702.28 after a lengthy delinquency. Id. ¶ 9. Experian claims*fn2 that it sent the results of its reinvestigation to Molton on January 2, 2002, within 30 days of Molton's request for an investigation. Id. ¶ 10. Page 3

  In April 2002, Molton paid Allied Interstate $351.50 on the FNBM account. Id. ¶ 38. She called Experian on May 29, 2002 to request another copy of her credit file, which Experian sent her that day. Id. ¶ 11. Molton contacted Experian via the Internet on July 10, 2002 and claimed that the FNBM account was paid. Id. ¶ 12. Experian sent a CDV to FNBM on July 10 describing Molton's claim as "Consumer States: Status Disputed" and "Consumer Claims: Paid." Id. ¶ 13. FNBM responded on July 25, 2002, asking Experian to "(1) change the date of [Molton's] last payment to April 2002; (2) reduce the `recent balance' amount from $702.28 to $350.78; and (3) reduce the amount past due from $702 to $350." Id. ¶ 14. But FNBM confirmed that Experian was correctly reporting the account as a charge-off after a lengthy delinquency. Id. Experian updated the account to reflect the changes requested by FNBM. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. Experian claims*fn3 it sent Molton the results of its reinvestigation on August 8, 2002, within thirty days of Molton's request for an investigation. Id. ¶ 15. The correction summary sent to Molton by Experian stated that the FNBM account was updated and that Molton had a right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to have a consumer dispute statement placed on her credit report if she disagreed with the results of the reinvestigation. Id. ¶ 16. Molton never asked for a consumer dispute statement to be added to her credit report. Id. ¶ 31.

  Molton applied in August 2002 for a residential mortgage of $73,742 with Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. Id. ¶ 44. Countrywide denied the application on September 6, 2002, checking off three Page 4 reasons for the denial on a standard form: (1) "Garnishment, attachment, foreclosure, collection or judgment repossession or suit"; (2) "Delinquent credit obligations (past or present); and (3) "Insufficient income to support loan." Id. ¶ 47; Def.'s Ex. W. Countrywide Home Loans relied on a credit report received from Landsafe Credit. Id. ¶ 49; Def.'s Ex. W. The Landsafe Credit Merge Report relied upon by Countrywide stated that Molton had several collection accounts and delinquent credit obligations in addition to the FNBM account. Id. ¶ 49.

  Molton claims, and Experian admits, that she filled out one of Experian's correction forms on September 23, 2002, and sent it to Experian. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3. With it she enclosed a letter from Allied Interstate, dated April 30, 2002, stating: "the above referenced account has been settled in full. Therefore, there remains no further outstanding obligations pertaining to this account." Id.; Pl.'s Ex. A. Molton also included a copy of the money order showing proof of a $351.50 payment by Molton to Allied Interstate. Id.; Pl.'s Ex. G. Citibank denied Molton credit in a letter dated October 2, 2002. Def.'s Facts ¶ 52. And Molton contacted Experian again, this time via the Internet on October 9, 2002, to request a reinvestigation of the FNBM account, again claiming that the account was paid. Id. ¶ 19. That day, Experian sent a CDV to FNBM describing Molton's dispute as "Consumer States: Consumer states inaccurate info. "ACCT PD TO ALLIED INTERSTATE 04/04/02 PH 800-833-5313. VERIFY AND UPDATE." Id. ¶ 20. In her deposition, Molton stated that this summary of her dispute was reasonable and told FNBM everything it needed to know about the dispute. Id. ¶ 21. On October 22, 2002, FNBM advised Experian that Molton's account had an outstanding charge-off balance of $350.78. Id. ¶ 22. Experian sent a confirmation of the results of its investigation to Molton on November 7, 2002, thirty days after Molton requested the investigation. Id. ¶ 23. Page 5

  However, on September 26, 2002, FNBM had sent Molton a letter in which it agreed to update her account's status to "paid charge-off/less than fall balance" within 90 days. Id. ¶ 24. Molton testified at her deposition that this designation with the comment of "Account legally paid in fall for less than fall balance" was what she had wanted. Id. ¶ 25. Molton filed her complaint on November 5, 2002. Id. ¶ 28. Molton's credit report reflected this agreed upon status by December 3, 2003, which was within 90 days of FNBM's September 26, 2002 letter. Id. ¶ 27; Def.'s Ex. K. As a result of the lawsuit, Experian sent another CDV to FNBM on December 6, 2002, saying "CONS STATES ACCT HAS BEEN PAID IN FULL SINCE APRIL 2002." Id. ¶ 29. "FNBM responded on December 19, 2002 that the account was correctly reported as `settled/charge-off' with a comment that the `account legally paid in fall for less than fall balance.'" Id. ¶ 30.

  Standard of Review

  Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the 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). The Court must look at the evidence "as a jury might, construing the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and avoiding the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true." Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court's "function is not to weigh the evidence but merely to determine if `there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Bennett v. Roberts, 295 F.3d 687, 694 (7th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). To avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant "must produce more than a scintilla of evidence to support his position." Pugh v. City of Attica, Indiana, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Page 6

 [EDITORS NOTE: THIS PAGE IS BLANK.] Page 7

  Analysis

  Molton claims that Experian violated two sections of the FCRA and defamed her. Specifically, she claims Experian violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681i by (1) failing to conduct a reasonable reinvestigation into her claims of inaccurate reporting; (2) failing to provide FNBM with the letter Molton gave Experian from Allied Interstate saying Molton's account had been settled in full; (3) failing to review the Allied Interstate letter and proof of payment provided by Molton; (4) failing to delete inaccurate information from Molton's file after completing its reinvestigation; and (5) failing to note Molton's dispute in her credit file. Compl. ¶ 22. She also claims Experian violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b) by "failing to employ and follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of [her] credit report, information and file." Id. As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that because Molton admitted that she "never requested that a consumer dispute statement be added to her personal credit report," Def.'s Facts ¶ 31; Pl.'s Resp. to Facts ¶ 31, she cannot claim that Experian violated § 1681i(c) by failing to note Molton's dispute in her credit report. If a consumer is not satisfied with the results of the requested reinvestigation, "the consumer may file a brief statement setting forth the nature of the dispute." 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(b). "Whenever a statement of dispute is filed . . ...


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