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Webb v. Experian Information Services, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 16, 2017



          Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge United States District Judge

         Before the Court are the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment [ECF Nos. 69, 72]. For the reasons stated herein, the Court grants Defendant's Motion and denies Plaintiff's Motion. The Court dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Geraldine Lynette Webb (“Webb”) brought suit against Defendant Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”), alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the “FCRA”). What follows is a summary of the essential facts that are not in dispute.

         On April 30, 2014, Webb filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy because she could no longer afford mortgage payments on her residential property in Elgin, Illinois. The property was underwater; that is, the balance due on the mortgage exceeded the fair market value of the property. Webb had no success finding a buyer for the property. Webb's modified Chapter 13 plan, confirmed on June 27, 2014, stated that she was surrendering it to “Bank of America, N.A. in full satisfaction of its claims.” (ECF No. 78 ¶ 15.) On January 28, 2015, the bankruptcy court entered a discharge order that, while including “most” of her debts, did not specify which of Webb's accounts were included in the discharge. (Id. ¶ 17.) Webb admits that she knew when she filed for bankruptcy that doing so would adversely affect her credit score.

         Experian is a credit reporting agency (“CRA”) whose business consists of compiling consumer credit information and providing it to others. Experian communicates with creditors (also known as “data furnishers”) through an industry-wide automated online system called “e-Oscar.” The FCRA provides that a consumer may notify a CRA of a dispute concerning the accuracy of information it maintains in the consumer's credit file, and requires that the CRA then conduct a reasonable reinvestigation of the file. See, 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a)(1)(A). Experian resolves consumer disputes and updates inaccurate information via either an “internal” or “external” investigation-and-update process. If Experian can resolve the dispute with information contained in the consumer's credit file or produced by the consumer in its dispute letter, Experian processes the dispute “internally” and sends a Dispute Response Notification (“DRN”) through e-OSCAR to notify the data furnisher of the changes Experian made. If Experian cannot resolve the dispute internally, it sends the data furnisher an Automated Consumer Dispute Verification (“ACDV”) form through e-OSCAR to elicit a response indicating whether the information the furnisher is reporting to Experian is accurate.

         On March 4, 2015, Experian received from Webb a dispute letter dated February 9, 2015, along with her bankruptcy discharge order, copies of her driver's license and social security card, and schedules D, E, and F of her bankruptcy petition. In the letter, Webb did not refer to any specific creditor accounts but asked Experian to “update the subject credit file(s) to reflect the discharged status of the debts as indicated on the Final Report from the Trustee.” (ECF No. 78 ¶ 41.) The letter did not include the Final Report from the Trustee. The schedules listed five creditor accounts, including Bank of America and Discover Financial Services (“Discover”).

         At the time Experian received the letter, Webb's Discover account was already reporting as discharged in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Experian processed Webb's dispute internally, updating the date of discharge for her Discover account and confirming that it was properly reporting. After making the updates, Experian sent a DRN informing Discover that it had updated the information it maintains for Webb's Discover account and showing how the account was reporting before and after Experian's updates. However, Experian did not do this for Webb's Bank of America account. The Experian agent apparently “overlooked” the fact that Bank of America was listed as a creditor on the Schedule D Webb had submitted. (ECF No. 74 (“Def.'s SOF”) ¶ 48.)

         On March 11, 2015, Experian formally responded to Webb's dispute letter with an updated disclosure detailing the information Experian had in her credit file. The disclosure shows the unchanged Bank of America account with a “date of status” of “Apr 2014, ” a monthly payment of $624, a recent balance of “$92, 705 as of Apr 2014, ” and a status of “Open. $1, 248 past due as of Apr. 2014.” (ECF No. 78 ¶ 49.)

         On September 17, 2015, Experian received from Webb a second dispute letter, this time asking Experian explicitly to update her Bank of America account to report it as discharged with a balance due of $0. The letter attached the same information and schedules. At this time, however, Webb's Bank of America account was already reporting as discharged in Chapter 13 bankruptcy with a $0 recent balance, no monthly payment obligation, and no past due amount. On September 23, 2015, Experian processed Webb's dispute internally; because Webb's Discover and Bank of America accounts were already reporting as discharged, Experian simply reapplied the discharge status to the accounts. Experian then sent DRNs to Discover and Bank of America informing them that Experian had made changes to Webb's credit file and showing how the accounts were reporting before and after Experian's updates. On September 23, 2015, Experian sent Webb an updated disclosure displaying the information it had in its credit file on her, including the updated accounts.

         Since Webb's bankruptcy discharge in January 2015, the only inquiry on her Experian credit file associated with an action Webb took (i.e., an application for credit) was a May 24, 2015 inquiry by Bank of America. A credit denial letter dated May 24, 2015 from Bank of America informed Webb that she was not approved for a Visa credit card “because you have previously filed bankruptcy or have an account included in bankruptcy.” (Def.'s SOF, Ex. K at 1; ECF No. 78 ¶ 61.) That denial letter makes no reference to a high balance, payment history, or other information relating to the Bank of America mortgage account.

         Webb's Complaint alleges that, as a result of Experian's actions, she suffered damages including the loss of credit, the loss of ability to purchase and benefit from a credit line, certified mail expenses, other frustration and aggravation, loss of time and money from meeting with her attorneys, and emotional distress. Webb did not seek treatment for depression or emotional distress (opting to “pray[] a lot” instead), nor did she write the dispute letters or pay her attorneys any money to litigate this case. (Webb Tr. 48:13-16, 49:11-20, 51:3-7.)


         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute as to any material fact 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). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After “a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party ‘must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (quotation omitted). “To survive summary judgment, the non-moving party must ...

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