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Fair Credit Reporting Act Complaint Dismissed for Insufficient Service of Process, but Pro-Se Plaintiff Granted Leave to Amend Complaint
Brown v. Experian Credit Reporting
On March 26, 2012, pro-se plaintiff Chevera D. Brown (“Plaintiff”) filed suit in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore County against Experian Credit Reporting (“Experian”). On May 25, 2012, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint in the State court. The amended complaint alleged that Experian “has persistently reported derogatory and inaccurate statements and information relating to Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s credit history to third parties.” Despite Plaintiff’s alleged efforts to bring these inaccuracies to Experian’s attention, Experian had allegedly failed to correct them.
Experian removed the action to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on July 10, 2012, and shortly thereafter, Experian filed a motion to dismiss due to insufficient process, insufficient service of process, the resulting lack of personal jurisdiction, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff was eventually ordered to comply with Local Rule 103.6(c) within twenty-one days, by filing a clean copy of the amended complaint and a copy of the amended complaint showing the material to be stricken from or added to the original complaint. Plaintiff failed to file anything in compliance with the Court’s order, so the Court rejected Plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend her complaint.
Plaintiff failed to properly serve Experian in this case. It was Plaintiff’s burden to establish the validity of service. However, Plaintiff’s opposition motion failed to address this issue. Therefore, the Court was required to rely on the description of service provided by Experian, as well as the certified mail receipt.
According to Experian, “Plaintiff sent the summons and complaint by certified mail to Experian Credit Reporting, using an address for Experian [Information Solutions, Inc.] and failing to specify that the mail be directed to an authorized agent of Experian Information.” This attempt to serve Experian did not comply with MD. RULE 3-124(d). The Court therefore quashed the service of process.
Plaintiff’s amended complaint also failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted, because it failed to identify any false or inaccurate statement that Experian made about Plaintiff. The amended complaint stated that Experian “has persistently reported derogatory and inaccurate statements and information relating to Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s credit history to third parties,” and it identified accounts with which that information was associated.
However, because the amended complaint failed to allege facts to support this allegation, including the content of the false allegations, it failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) imposes civil liability on any person—defined to include any corporation or other entity, see 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(b)—who willfully or negligently fails to comply with its requirements. The amended complaint alleged that Experian failed to comply with the requirements of two provisions of the FCRA: §§ 1681e(b) and 1681i(a). In order to state a claim for failure to comply with § 1681e(b), Plaintiff was required to have alleged that a consumer report contained inaccurate information. The same is true of § 1681i(a). Therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a claim under the FCRA, for which relief could be granted.
Similarly, Plaintiff’s failure to identify an allegedly false statement rendered her claims for defamation, invasion of privacy and negligence insufficient as a matter of law. Under Maryland law, a claim for defamation requires that Experian made a defamatory statement to a third person, that the statement was false. The same is true for an invasion of privacy claim. Finally, Plaintiff’s negligence claim was solely based on the alleged inaccuracy of the information reported by Experian, and the failure of the amended complaint to specify any inaccurate statements was therefore fatal.
In response to Experian’s motion to dismiss, Plaintiff requested leave to file a second amended complaint. In light of Plaintiff’s pro se status and the more detailed allegations contained in Plaintiff’s original complaint, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint.
Accordingly, the Court granted Experian’s motion to dismiss the complaint as well as Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, with the caveat that any such second amended complaint be filed within thirty (30) days, correctly identify the proper Experian(s) in this action, and be served upon those Experian(s) in compliance with FED. R. CIV. P. 4.
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