United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MAURICE J. SMITH, Plaintiff,
TRANS UNION, LLC, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.
Pro se Plaintiff Maurice J. Smith brought this lawsuit against Defendant Trans Union, LLC ("Trans Union"), a consumer reporting agency, for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq . Before the Court is Trans Union's motion for summary judgment brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). For the following reasons, the Court grants Trans Union's motion and dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety.
I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1
Because Smith is proceeding pro se, Trans Union served him with a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment" as required by Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.2. The notice explains the consequences of failing to properly respond to a motion for summary judgment and statement of material facts under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56.1.
Local Rule 56.1 "is designed, in part, to aid the district court, which does not have the advantage of the parties' familiarity with the record and often cannot afford to spend the time combing the record to locate the relevant information, ' in determining whether a trial is necessary." Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law." Petty v. City of Chicago, 754 F.3d 416, 420 (7th Cir. 2014). "The non-moving party must file a response to the moving party's statement, and, in the case of any disagreement, cite specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.'" Id. (citation omitted); see also L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(A). Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) "requires specifically that a litigant seeking to oppose a motion for summary judgment file a response that contains a separate statement... of any additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment.'" Sojka v. Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., 686 F.3d 394, 398 (7th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). "The obligations set forth by a court's local rules are not mere formalities." Zuppardi v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 770 F.3d 644, 648 (7th Cir. 2014).
Although courts construe pro se pleadings liberally, see Ambrose v. Roeckeman, 749 F.3d 615, 618 (7th Cir. 2014), a plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with the federal and local procedural rules. See Collins v. Illinois, 554 F.3d 693, 697 (7th Cir. 2009) ("even pro se litigants must follow procedural rules"). As the Supreme Court instructs, "we have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel." McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113, 113 S.Ct. 1980, 124 L.Ed.2d 21 (1993).
Here, Smith has not filed a response to Trans Union's statement of facts under Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B), and therefore, the Court accepts all properly supported assertions in Trans Union's statement of material facts as true to the extent that the facts are supported in the record. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C); Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 735 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 2013). In addition, Smith has not set forth a Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement of additional facts.
II. Relevant Facts
On December 20, 2013, Smith filed the present Complaint alleging that Trans Union failed to follow reasonable procedures to ensure the accuracy of his credit information and failed to properly reinvestigate his claims after he complained to Trans Union about the inaccuracies. (R. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 32-43.) In particular, based on Smith's Complaint and his previous credit reporting disputes, Smith is challenging the accuracy of the credit reporting in regard to several adverse bank accounts, a 2011 federal tax lien, and his 2011 Chapter 7 bankruptcy. (R. 48, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 8-10.)
More specifically, Smith's first dispute with Trans Union involved Smith calling Trans Union on or before February 19, 2013, at which time Smith contested the ownership and accuracy of his OneWest Bank account and Green Tree mortgage. ( Id. ¶ 12.) Trans Union investigated these claims by contacting OneWest Bank and Green Tree through the Automated Consumer Dispute Verification ("ACDV") process, informing those entities that Smith "claims inaccurate information" asking that they "provide or confirm complete ID and verify account information." ( Id. ¶ 13.) Both OneWest Bank and Green Tree responded to the ACDVs on or about March 6, 2013, by making minor updates to the information on the accounts, but otherwise verifying that they were reported accurately. ( Id. ¶ 14.) On March 16, 2013, Trans Union sent Smith the results of its investigation. ( Id. ¶ 15, Ex. D, Wilson Decl. ¶ 14.)
Next, on or about March 15, 2013, Smith submitted a dispute to Trans Union via mail stating that his Charter One, First Bankcard, HSBC/Capital One Bank, and Wells Fargo accounts on his credit file had been opened fraudulently and that the bankruptcy and tax lien on his credit report were inaccurate. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 16; Wilson Decl. ¶ 15.) Smith attached a police report to his March 15, 2013, correspondence, which states that he told the reporting officer that all of these accounts were part of his bankruptcy filing. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 17.) Accordingly, Trans Union investigated the status of his accounts in the bankruptcy proceeding through the bankruptcy court's online docket PACER and the Lexis-Nexis tax lien public record database to test Smith's claims that the disputed information was inaccurate. ( Id. ¶ 18.) Also, Trans Union initiated an investigation with the furnishers of the credit information for the disputed bank accounts using the ACDV process, informing the furnishers that Smith "claims true identity fraud, account fraudulently opened" and asked that they "provide or confirm complete ID." ( Id. ¶ 19.) The furnishers verified the accuracy of the accounts, and on April 10, 2013, Trans Union sent Smith the results of its investigation. ( Id. ¶¶ 20, 21.)
On April 25, 2013, Smith submitted an online dispute to Trans Union claiming that the Chapter 7 bankruptcy did not belong to him, after which Trans Union investigated and verified Smith's bankruptcy petition and resultant discharge of debts through PACER. ( Id. ¶¶ 22-24.) On April 29, 2013, Trans Union sent Smith the results of its investigation. ( Id. ¶ 25.) Similarly, on April 29, 2013, Trans Union received another dispute from Smith via mail in which he claimed that he had "never filed bankruptcy" and asked that Trans Union remove the bankruptcy from his credit report. ( Id. ¶ 26.) Again, Trans Union initiated an investigation through PACER, but then cancelled the investigation because Trans Union had recently verified that Smith had filed for bankruptcy protection. ( Id. ¶ 27.) Trans Union sent Smith a letter on or about May 1, 2013, informing him that Trans Union had previously verified his bankruptcy. ( Id. ¶ 28.)
Also, Trans Union initiated an investigation into Smith's First Bankcard, Charter One Bank, People's Energy, OneWest Bank, Green Tree, and Wells Fargo accounts with each of the furnishers through the ACDV process regarding Smith's allegations that these accounts were "included in bankruptcy of another person." ( Id. ¶ 29.) Trans Union specifically asked these furnishers to verify the consumer information, account status, and current balance. ( Id. ) The furnishers then verified that these accounts were included ...