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Maria E. v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

February 22, 2018

MARIA E, Plaintiff,
v.
EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Joseph M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge

         In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Maria E avers that Defendant “willfully and negligently failed to provide credit information” and “willfully and negligently failed to conduct a proper investigation . . . in violation of” the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681e(b), 1681i, and 1681g. Defendant Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”), has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 27]. Plaintiff has filed a Response [DE 32], stating her objections to the motion, and Defendant has replied in further support of its Motion [DE 34]. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I.

         Experian is a consumer credit reporting agency under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681(p), serving as a conduit of information relevant to decisions regarding consumer credit and related matters. Essentially, Experian gathers credit information originated by others and makes that information available to parties engaged in credit related transactions. It stores, retrieves, and furnishes data under the auspices of the FCRA. Credit grantors report trade lines consisting of credit account information, including account number, account status, and balance information. Credit grantors also report consumer identifying information associated with the trade line. After Experian receives credit data but before adding it to a credit file, Experian reviews the information in various ways in its efforts to ensure that only accurate information will be reported for a given consumer.

         Experian has extensive procedures for assuring the maximum possible accuracy of reported credit information. These procedures include: (1) verifying the accuracy of a consumer's identifying information; (2) working with credit grantors to ensure they supply the most complete and accurate data possible; (3) subjecting all incoming data to numerous systems and checks designed to prevent errors; (4) continually reviewing and refining Experian's computer systems in an ongoing effort to assure maximum possible accuracy of information Experian reports; and (5) working with consumers to proactively prevent errors in consumer credit reports.

         Experian's credit reporting system does not store information on consumers in complete or assembled credit reports. Rather, the credit report is assembled at the time of an inquiry, using the identifying information provided by the inquiring party and comparing that information to the data in Experian's database. Experian has devised a system which accounts for the sometimes inconsistent manner in which consumers and data furnishers use or report identifying information (including parts of a name, typographical errors, etc.) by requiring a minimum of two letters for a consumer's surname length. Experian argues that this ensures sufficient information to provide a correct match when it receives an inquiry.

         Experian's system did not, however, anticipate Plaintiff. She was born Maria Kalla and has had various married names over the years, including Moore and Morand, but changed her legal name to “Maria E.” in 1992 when she divorced and, again, to “Maria E” on July 20, 2016. Over the years she has used her married names with respect to obtaining credit, among other purposes, and has periodically requested credit reports under those names. Most recently, she has used her legal name, “Maria E”, for credit applications.

         Plaintiff first contacted Experian to dispute the reporting (or lack of reporting) of her legal name in November 2008. In a letter dated October 15, 2008, Plaintiff informed Experian that her legal name was “Maria E” and requested that her credit reports reflect that. Experian considered her request and responded, on November 17, 2008, that its database “does not support the use of a single name or a single initial for a surname.” Then, in 2016, Plaintiff began the process of establishing a good credit history so that she could purchase a home. Plaintiff had saved $10, 000 and hoped to obtain a VA loan to finance the balance of the cost for a house. Recognizing that none of the three national credit bureaus were reporting credit information for her using her legal name, she set about to correct that.

         For example, Plaintiff applied for a $1, 000 installment loan through Forcht Bank in spring 2016 in order to establish a positive payment history, and her application was denied when the bank was unable to pull a credit report for Plaintiff through CBCInnovis. Plaintiff then obtained the loan, without submitting a second application after Trans Union and Equifax, the other major credit reporting agencies, began providing reports for her using her name, “Maria E” in the months that followed.[1]

         Although Plaintiff was able to secure corrections to her name in her file from TransUnion and Equifax, she was unable to do so with Experian, notwithstanding the fact that there is but one social security number associated with Maria E's credit file as it exists under her former names - her social security number.

         In a July 4, 2016, letter she advised Experian that her legal name was “Maria E” and requested that Experian provide credit reports under that name. Experian wrote back, on July 19, 2016, advising her that its “database does not support the use of a single name or a single initial for a surname.” Plaintiff wrote again on September 29, 2016, and October 7, 2016, reiterating her request. Experian responded both times that its “database does not support the use of a single name or a single initial for a surname.” Plaintiff understood that Experian could not, with the system it was using, accommodate her request.

         Plaintiff contacted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in October 2016. Experian responded to the complaint made through that process by responding that its “database does not support the use of a single initial for a surname because single initial surnames do not provide sufficient identifying information to ensure a correct match” and that, because of its search and match logic, “[t]he request by the consumer to allow the display of a single character surname is not simply a formatting change, ” and explained that “[c]hanging the search and match logic to allow for single initial surnames could potentially have serious adverse effects on the credit reports of large numbers of other consumers because it would allow credit items to be matched to consumer files with insufficient identifying information.”[2]

         In December 2016, Plaintiff sought a mortgage to purchase a new home through Veterans United Home Loan through mortgage broker Pat O'Laughlin, but she was advised that she would not be able to obtain financing because O'Laughlin was unable to obtain a tri-merge credit report for her because there was no report from Experian.[3] After his request for a credit report for “Maria E” was unsuccessful, O'Laughlin reached out to Experian to try to resolve the situation and, ultimately, made a request using her former name, Marian Morand, with Plaintiff's permission and per Experian's suggestion. Unfortunately, the report received using her former name did not include Plaintiff's more recently established credit history through two active, revolving accounts at USAA and an open and active installment account at Forcht Bank.[4]

         O'Laughlin observed Plaintiff's frustration, humiliation, and embarrassment over her inability to obtain credit because she could not resolve the situation with Experian. Friends and acquaintances, including Wallace Barnes, Gregory Manley, John Grigsby, and John Huber, observed Plaintiff as she looked for a home to purchase and observed the physical and emotional impact that the intractable situation with Experian has had on her, corroborating her own claims that she became withdrawn; experienced frustration, tearfulness, and feelings of depression; and experienced and complained of headaches and stomach pain due to her experience with Experian.

         II.

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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). Initially, the burden is on the moving party to conclusively show no genuine issue of material fact exists. Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003), and the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). However, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on the basis of allegations, but must come forward with some significant probative evidence to support its claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case with respect to which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Id. at 323.

         The Court determines whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question, but does not weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of the matter. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Weaver v. Shadoan,340 F.3d 398, 405 (6th Cir. 2003). The standard for summary judgment mirrors the standard for directed verdict. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The Court must decide “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52. There must be some probative evidence from which the jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. If the Court concludes a ...


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