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Report Must Contain an Inaccuracy to be Actionable Against Credit Bureaus


D. Maryland; 4/27/2017; Case No. TDC-14-1180

Ms. Alston filed a case against two credit bureaus for violations of 15 U.S.C. § 1681e and 1681i, failure to maintain procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy and failure to conduct a reinvestigation into dispute information, respectively.

Unfortunately, this is one of many cases litigated by Ms. Alston involving the reporting of her Wells Fargo mortgage.  In a prior case against Wells Fargo, the Court decided that Wells Fargo’s reporting of her account as delinquent was accurate because the evidence established that Wells Fargo was entitled to collect payments from her during the period of reported delinquency and because, during that period, Alston made no legal payments on the mortgage.

This is significant in the present case against the credit bureaus in that Ms. Alston was collaterally estopped from arguing that the reporting was inaccurate.  Collateral estoppel provides that a party may not relitigate an issue previously resolved in litigation if the following requirements are satisfied: (1) the issue in the pending litigation is the same as the one previously litigated, (2) the issue was actually resolved in the prior litigation, (3) the issue resolved was necessary to the judgment in the prior proceeding, (4) the judgment in the prior proceeding is final and valid, (5) the party to be estopped had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding.  Importantly, collateral estoppel bars relitigation of a previously decided issue “even if the issue recurs in the context of a different claim.” Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008).

The Fourth Circuit has held that a claim under § 1681e must show that the consumer report contains inaccurate information along with showing that the reporting agency did not follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy. Dalton v. Capital Assoc. Indus., Inc., 257 F.3d 409, 455 (4th Cir. 2001). Though the Fourth Circuit has not addressed the issue, other courts, including the District of Maryland have held that an inaccuracy is an element of a violation of § 1681i.

Therefore, the Court granted the credit bureaus motion for summary judgment because Ms. Alston was collaterally estopped from claiming the Wells Fargo reporting was inaccurate and could not maintain a claim under § 1681e or § 1681i.