Did the Inaccurate Report "Pertain to" the Plainti

Who has the right to bring FCRA and related claims for credit reporting abuses? What if the plaintiff dies? Can a spouse join in the suit for damages?
David A. Szwak

Did the Inaccurate Report "Pertain to" the Plainti

Postby David A. Szwak » Sat Dec 17, 2005 8:25 pm

Barron v. Trans Union Corp.
82 F.Supp.2d 1288
M.D.Ala.,2000.
Jan 03, 2000

Standing
[9] Defendant argues that Mrs. Barron lacks standing to pursue a claim under the FCRA. (Mem. at 1; Reply at 3.) Namely, Defendant states that the disputed Civil Judgment and Sears Account were not "in any way attributed to [Mrs.] Barron." (Reply. at 3.) Moreover, Defendant asserts that Mrs. Barron "never reported the disputed accounts on her report and she does not claim otherwise. Further, Mrs. Barron was granted credit on each occasion she applied." (Mem. at 1.) In response, Plaintiffs do not dispute that Mrs. Barron's claims arise from the alleged errors in the consumer reports on Mr. Barron, not an error in Mrs. Barron's consumer report(s). However, Plaintiffs assert that Mrs. Barron has standing to join with Mr. Barron in this action because she has suffered "injuries" that "flow directly from a denial of joint credit or individual credit for [Mr. Barron]." (Resp. at 9.)
[10] The court agrees with Plaintiffs that individuals other than the subject of a consumer report can have standing to bring a lawsuit under the FCRA. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(d) (defining consumer report as "any ... communication ... bearing on a consumer's credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity...."); see also Koropoulos v. Credit Bureau, Inc., 734 F.2d 37, 47 (D.C.Cir.1984) (holding that, if the facts at trial demonstrated that the wife was denied credit based on an inaccuracy in her husband's consumer report, then "that inaccuracy harmed her" so that she would have a cause of action under the FCRA). However, in order to have standing under the FCRA, the disputed consumer report must "relate[ ]" to the individual bringing suit. Wiggins, 848 F.Supp. at 226; see also Williams v. Equifax Credit Information Serv., 892 F.Supp. 951, 955 (E.D.Mich.1995) (The FCRA "provide[s] standing to a party when a credit report damages that party's individual credit worthiness. It does not provide standing to a party who[se] injuries are merely derivative of the injury to another party's credit worthiness.").
Of the four credit reports at issue, see supra at page 1294, the court finds that Mrs. Barron has standing only as to the claim pertaining to the denial of credit with Mortgage Corporation of the South. The evidence demonstrates that Plaintiffs jointly applied for a consumer loan with Mortgage Corporation of the South and that credit was denied based upon the alleged inaccurate Civil Judgment and Sears Account in Mr. Barron's consumer report. (Mem., Ex. A; Resp., Exs. 1, 2 & 3.) Because Plaintiffs were denied joint credit, the court finds that Mrs. Barron was affected by Mr. Barron's consumer report and, thus, the consumer report relates to her. As in Koropoulos, Mr. Barron's consumer report had a negative bearing *1297 on Mrs. Barron's creditworthiness. 734 F.2d at 47. In other words, Mr. Barron's consumer report constituted a "communication ... bearing on" Mrs. Barron's ability to obtain credit. [FN4] 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(d). Accordingly, Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment is due to be denied on Defendant's contention that Mrs. Barron lacks standing to sue based on Mortgage Corporation of the South's denial of Plaintiffs' joint credit application.


FN4. The court notes that it deems inconsequential the fact that, after Plaintiffs were denied joint credit, Mrs. Barron qualified for credit on her own. (Resp., Ex. 3.) The fact remains that Mrs. Barron initially suffered an injury and was impaired in her ability to secure joint credit based on alleged false information in Mr. Barron's consumer report.


[11] However, the court finds as a matter of law that the remaining three consumer reports on Mr. Barron furnished to Capitol Chevrolet/GMAC, American General Finance and the Alabama State Employees' Credit Union do not relate to Mrs. Barron's creditworthiness. First, Mr. Barron individually filled out a "Lease Application" with Capitol Chevrolet/GMAC on January 2, 1997. [FN5] (Resp., Ex. 3.) He was not applying for joint credit with Mrs. Barron and her name is not mentioned or referred to on the Lease Application. [FN6] (Id.) Second, when Mr. Barron was denied credit with American General Finance in November 1997, his application indicates that he applied for credit for an "individual account." (Id.) There is no information pertaining to Mrs. Barron on the application or in the notice denying credit from American General Finance. (Id.) Third, Mr. Barron's application for credit with the Alabama State Employees' Credit Union and the "Adverse Action Form" from the Alabama State Employees' Credit Union to Mr. Barron likewise do not refer to Mrs. Barron. Furthermore, in all three instances credit was denied based on the Civil Judgment and the Sears Account contained in Mr. Barron's consumer reports. Neither the Sears Account nor the Civil Judgment reference Mrs. Barron. [FN7] (Resp., Ex. 3.)


FN5. On the Lease Application, Mr. Barron checked "individual credit," which means that he was "applying for credit in [his] own name and relying on [his] own income or assets and not the income or assets of another person as the basis for repayment of the credit requested," (Resp., Ex. 3.)



FN6. On the Lease Application, Mr. Barron checked "individual credit," which means that he was "applying for credit in [his] own name and relying on [his] own income or assets and not the income or assets of another person as the basis for repayment of the credit requested." (Resp., Ex. 3.)



FN7. The court notes that the facts surrounding Mr. Barron's attempts to obtain credit from Capitol Chevrolet/GMAC, American General Finance and
the Alabama State Employees' Credit Union are distinguishable from Conley v. TRW Credit Data, 381 F.Supp. 473 (N.D.Ill.1974), cited by Plaintiffs. (Resp. at 9.) In Conley, the court found that the husband's consumer report related to his wife's creditworthiness primarily for two reasons. First, the husband and wife jointly applied for and were denied credit. 381 F.Supp. at 473-474. Second, the husband's consumer report contained financial information about the wife. Id. Here, to the contrary, Mr. Barron individually applied for credit at Capitol Chevrolet/GMAC, American General Finance and the Alabama State Employees' Credit Union. Additionally, there is no evidence that the alleged false information in Mr. Barron's consumer reports upon which these three businesses relied pertained to or involved Mrs. Barron.


Therefore, based on the foregoing, the court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to Mrs. Barron's standing to join Mr. Barron in these three claims. Accordingly, summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of Defendant on its contention that Mrs. Barron lacks standing to sue based on Mr. Barron's alleged inaccurate consumer reports, which caused Capitol Chevrolet/GMAC, American General Finance and the Alabama State Employees' Credit Union to deny Mr. Barron credit.

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