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Edeh v. Equifax Information Services, LLC

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 24, 2013

SAMUEL N. EDEH, Plaintiff,
v.
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES, LLC, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Samuel N. Edeh, Rochester, Minnesota, Pro se.

Andrew T. Shern and Christopher G. Angell, Murnane Brandt, PA, St. Paul, Minnesota; J. Anthony Love and Brian J. Olson, King & Spalding, LLP, Atlanta, Georgia, for Defendant.

OPINION

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, United States District Court Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Equifax Information Services,

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LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 175] and Plaintiff Samuel N. Edeh's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 192].[1] These motions were decided on the papers. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted, and Plaintiff's motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

On May 16, 2003, Plaintiff Samuel Edeh (" Edeh" ) opened a credit card account with Capital One Bank (USA), N.A. (" Capital One" ). (Napolitano Aff. ¶ 5 [Doc. No. 35].) On May 19, 2006, Edeh made the last payment on his credit card balance prior to having his account charged off as bad debt by Capital One on December 21, 2006. (Id. ¶ ¶ 6, 7.)

On September 17, 2009, Capital One sent a letter to Edeh stating that his account was severely delinquent, the account had been charged off as bad debt, and the full balance of $1,438.16 was due immediately. (Edeh Aff. dated Oct. 31, 2011 (" First Edeh Aff." ), Ex. C at 2 [Doc. No. 21].) This letter also notified Edeh there could still be a balance on his account after Capital One received payment because interest, late charges, and other charges change day-to-day. (Id., Ex. C at 3.) Subsequently, Capital One sent Edeh a billing statement for the period of June 24, 2010, through September 23, 2010 (" June-September 2010 statement" ), notifying him of an outstanding balance of $1,671.61. (Napolitano Aff. ¶ 8 & Ex. A at 1; First Edeh Aff. ¶ 10 & Ex. E at 1.)

On November 3, 2010, Edeh sent a letter and a check in the amount of $1,700 to Capital One, which was received by Capital One on November 5, 2010; the check was ultimately received by Capital One's payment processing center on or about November 9, 2010. (Missimer Aff. ¶ ¶ 5, 7 & Ex. 1 [Doc. No. 36]; Edeh Aff. dated Mar. 13, 2012 (" Second Edeh Aff." ), Ex. Q (EIS-EDEH-0109) [Doc. No. 72]; Wright Aff. ¶ 5 [Doc. No. 37]; First Edeh Aff. ¶ 9 & Ex. D at 1.) However, Capital One was unable to process the check upon arrival, as the payment coupon was not enclosed, the check contained no identifying information, and the signature was illegible. (Wright Aff. ¶ 5; First Edeh Aff., Ex. D at 2 (check in amount of $1,700).) The check was forwarded to Capital One's research team, which could not discern to whom the check should be credited, given the lack of identifying information. (Wright Aff. ¶ 6.) On November 24, 2010, Capital One cashed the $1,700 check and placed it in the " unclaims" account pending further information. (Id. ¶ 7; First Edeh Aff. ¶ 9 & Ex. D at 2.)

On November 28, 2010, Equifax received via facsimile a letter from Edeh dated November 25, 2010, in which Edeh stated that " the furnisher agreed to remove the account from my credit reports. Please

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investigate this account so it can be removed from my credit file." (Smith Decl. dated Dec. 12, 2011 (" First Smith Decl." ) ¶ 70 & Ex. P [Doc. No. 42].) On November 29, 2010, Equifax sent an Automated Consumer Disputed Verification (" ACDV" ) system summary[3] to Capital One, which described Edeh's November 28, 2010, dispute as follows: " CONSUMER STATES INACCURATE INFORMATION. VERIFY COMPLETE ID AND ACCOUNT INFORMATION." (Third Edeh Aff., Ex. B (EIS-EDEH-0099).) On November 30, 2010, Capital One responded that the account information had been reported correctly. (First Smith Decl. ¶ 71.) On November 30, 2010, Equifax sent Edeh the results of its reinvestigation, indicating that " Equifax verified that this item belongs to you" and enclosing additional information provided by Capital One, including the balance of the Capital One account in the amount of $1,713. (Id. ¶ 72; First Edeh Aff., Ex. G.)

On December 1, 2010, Capital One sent a letter to Edeh in response to a dispute as to the amount he owed, in which Capital One maintained that its investigation showed that Edeh had an outstanding balance of $1,714.17. (First Edeh Aff., Ex. H.) On the same day, Equifax received a letter via facsimile from Edeh, which stated: " Per CAPITAL ONE BANK USA . . ., please verify the accuracy of this account and demonstrate that it appears correctly in my credit file. To aid your inquiry, I enclosed documents indicating the account was paid in full and that the creditor agreed to remove it from my credit file." (First Smith Decl., Ex. R; First Edeh Aff., Ex. P at 1.) Attached to this letter were documents that Edeh claimed indicated his account had been paid in full and that Capital One had agreed to remove the account from his credit file: a November 3, 2010, letter to Capital One from Edeh including a check payable to Capital One for $1,700, and the cancelled check in the amount of $1,700 made payable to Capital One. (Second Edeh Aff., ¶ 2 & Ex. Q (EIS-EDEH-0109 to EIS-EDEH-0110).)

On December 2, 2010, Equifax sent an ACDV system summary to Capital One, which described Edeh's December 1, 2010, dispute as follows: " DISPUTES CURRENT BALANCE - VERIFY ORIGINAL LOAN AMOUNT, SCHEDULED MONTHLY PAYMENT AMOUNT, ACTUAL PAYMENT AMOUNT, AMOUNT PAST DUE, CURRENT BALANC [sic]." (Id. (EIS-EDEH-0111).) On December 3, 2010, Capital One responded that the account information belonged to Edeh and updated the balance and past due amount. (First Smith Decl. ¶ 74.) On the same day, Equifax sent the results of its reinvestigation to Edeh, notifying him that his Capital One account balance had been updated to $1,715. (First Edeh Aff., Ex. I.) On December 3, 2010, Edeh sent a letter to Capital One asserting that his " account has been paid in full" and noting that he had enclosed the dispute submitted to Capital One through the credit reporting agency (" CRA" ). (Id., Ex. P at 5.) Edeh asked that Capital One investigate his account so that it could be modified accordingly. (Id.)

On December 7, 2010, Edeh notified Capital One's representative, Darik

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Brown, that he had faxed Capital One a copy of the cashed check, as " Alma" at Capital One had previously requested, and that he wanted a confirmation that the Capital One account had been fully satisfied in order to finalize a loan application. (Id., Ex. P at 6.) On December 15, 2010, Capital One notified Edeh that it had resolved the payment discrepancy and had applied the necessary credit to his account. (Id., Ex. K.) The balance on Edeh's account, as of that date, was $22.93. (Id.) According to Capital One, it had received correspondence from Edeh regarding the $1,700 check, which caused it to remove Edeh's payment from the " unclaims" account and to credit it to Edeh's account. (Napolitano Aff. ¶ 9.) Capital One refunded the finance charges on Edeh's account for December 2010 because it credited the $1,700 payment as having been received on November 24, 2010, when Capital One cashed the check. (Id. ¶ 10.) However, by November 24, 2010, the account balance had exceeded $1,700, so a small balance ($22.93) remained on Edeh's account after the $1,700 payment had been credited. (Id. ¶ 11.)

On December 20, 2010, Edeh sent a letter to a " Loraine" at Capital One, enclosing a cashed check and bank statement showing that the check was cashed on November 24, 2010, and requesting that Capital One fax a letter to him indicating that the account had been paid in full and had a zero balance. (First Edeh Aff., Ex. P at 7.) On December 21, 2010, Capital One sent a letter to Edeh, signed by Loraine Bryan, Recoveries Specialist, thanking him for his recent payment of $1,700, which it had received on December 16, 2010. (Id., Ex. L at 1.) This letter informed Edeh that the " balance on your Capital One account is now paid in full" and that " [o]nce the payment clears, we'll notify the following credit reporting agencies that your account has been paid in full." (Id.) Capital One also stated that the " credit reporting agencies may take up to 60 days to update the information on your credit report." (Id.) The letter also included Bryan's telephone number. (Id.)

On December 21, 2010, Edeh faxed a letter to Equifax, which provided:

Please investigate this account and show that it appears accurately on my credit file. To aid your investigation, enclosed please find cashed check as well as current bank statement indicating that the account was paid in full. The full payment check cleared my bank account on 11/24/2010. Also enclosed is a letter from Capital One confirming that the account has been paid in full. Please forward these materials to Capital One for proper investigation of this account. Thank you.

(First Smith Decl., Ex. T; Second Edeh Aff., Ex. R (emphasis omitted).) This letter enclosed the cashed $1,700 check to Capital One, Edeh's bank statement showing the check had been cashed, and the December 21, 2010, letter from Bryan at Capital One. (Second Edeh Aff., Ex. R.)

On December 22, 2010, Equifax sent an ACDV system summary to Capital One, which described Edeh's December 21, 2010, dispute as follows: " DISPUTES CURRENT BALANCE - VERIFY ORIGINAL LOAN AMOUNT, SCHEDULED MONTHLY PAYMENT AMOUNT, ACTUAL PAYMENT AMOUNT, AMOUNT PAST DUE, CURRENT BALANC [sic]." (Id.) In the section entitled " FCRA Relevant Information," Equifax stated: " CONSUMER SENT WELLS FARGO BANK STATEMENT OF PERIOD NOVEMBER 18 2010 TO DECEMBER 16 2010 AND CHECK OF WELLS FARGO TO CAPITAL ONE DATED 11 02 2010 WITH CHECK NUMBER 091000019 HAS

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BEEN PAID USD 1700 PLEASE VERIFY." (Id.) On December 23, 2010, Capital One responded that the account balance information should be updated to report a $9 balance, Equifax updated Edeh's credit file to reflect a $9 balance on the Capital One account, and Equifax notified Edeh of the results of the reinvestigation. (First Smith Decl. ¶ ¶ 77-78; First Edeh Aff., Ex. M.)

In a letter to Capital One dated December 24, 2010, Edeh contested Capital One's assertion that he owed $22.93 as of December 15, 2010, and its claim that he owed $9 as of December 24, 2010. (First Edeh Aff., Ex. N at 1.) Edeh relied on the December 21, 2010, letter from Bryan representing that Equifax had received his check on December 16, 2010, which he enclosed. (Id.) Edeh also enclosed the U.S. Mail delivery confirmation receipt showing that Capital One received the check on November 5, 2010. (Id.) According to Edeh, when the $1,700 check had been received by Capital One on November 5, 2010, the balance on his account was $1,698.54 or less. (Id.) Thus, Edeh asked Capital One to refund the excess amount paid by him. (Id.)

Capital One sent a billing statement to Edeh for the period of September 24 through December 23, 2010. (Id., Ex. E at 2.) The statement listed the previous balance on Edeh's account as $1,671.61. (Id.) The statement also set forth the interest charged to the account during this period: an $18.78 interest charge on October 23; a $19.40 interest charge on November 23; and a $13.77 interest charge on December 16. (Id.) The payments, credits, and adjustments applied to the account included a November 24 payment of $1,700 and a December 16 interest charge reversal of $13.75. (Id.) After applying Edeh's payment and the interest charge reversal ($1,713.75) to the previous balance and the interest assessed during the period ($1,723.56), a balance of $9.81 remained on Edeh's account. (Id.)

On December 27, 2010, Edeh faxed a letter to Equifax which stated:

I am in receipt of your investigation result issued under Dispute Confirmation Number 0356004115. Please understand that this account has been paid in full, and that you cannot continue to rely on Capital One's erroneous contention to the contrary. I provided you with several documents--including enclosed letter of December 21, 2010 from Loraine Bryan, Capital One's Recoveries Specialist--confirming that there's no unpaid balance on the account. The letter specifically states: " The balance on your Capital One account is now paid in full ... Thanks for paying your outstanding balance." What is likely taking place is that Capital One is using its automated system to investigate the account and it's ignoring relevant information. Who would you rather trust--the result of the automated system or confirmation from actual account specialist, Ms. Bryan?

(First Smith Decl., Ex. V (emphases in original).) The letter also included the telephone number for Bryan at Capital One, and the December 21, 2010, letter from Bryan to Edeh stating that his balance had been paid in full. (Id.)

On December 29, 2010, Edeh faxed another letter to Equifax stating:

Just yesterday, I received the mailed copy of the correspondence from Loraine Bryan, Capital One's Recoveries Specialist, confirming that this account in now fully paid. I also just spoke with Darik Brown, an Account Manager at Capital One, and he too confirmed that the account has been paid and closed.

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(Id.) This letter attached the letter from Bryan and included the telephone numbers for Bryan and Brown. (Id.)

On December 29, 2010, Equifax sent an ACDV to Capital One in response to Edeh's inquiry, which described the dispute as follows: " DISPUTES CURRENT BALANCE - VERIFY ORIGINAL LOAN AMOUNT, SCHEDULED MONTHLY PAYMENT AMOUNT, ACTUAL PAYMENT AMOUNT, AMOUNT PAST DUE, CURRENT BALANC [sic]." (Second Edeh Aff., Ex. S.) In the section entitled " FCRA Relevant Information," Equifax stated: " CONSUMER PROVIDE DOCUMENT STATING THAT PAID IN FULL DATED 12 16 2010 SIGNED BY LORAINE BRYAN." (Id.) On December 31, 2010, Capital One responded that the account balance information was correct, including the $9 balance, and Equifax sent the results of this reinvestigation to Edeh. (First Smith Decl. ¶ ¶ 80-81; First Edeh Aff., Ex. M at 2.)

On December 31, 2010, Edeh sent a letter to Capital One acknowledging that he had received the billing statement for the period of September 24 through December 23, 2010, showing a balance of $9.81. (First Edeh Aff., Ex. N at 2.) Edeh claimed that this balance was incorrect because Capital One received his $1,700 payment on November 5, 2010. (Id.) Edeh asserted that applying the daily interest rate for the 42 calendar days between September 24 (the start of the billing period) and November 5 (date of payment) to the outstanding balance resulted in an interest charge of approximately $23.97 and an ultimate balance, as of November 5, of $1,695.59. (Id.) As he had made a payment in the amount of $1,700, Edeh claimed that Capital One owed him money. (Id.) Edeh notified Capital One that the Fair Credit Billing Act requires a prompt posting of payment upon receipt and posting no later than 5 days after receipt to the extent that a consumer did not follow a creditor's payment procedures. (Id.) On January 2, 2011,[4] Edeh sent a follow-up letter to Capital One claiming that it appeared that it had applied a higher interest rate than the 28.1% rate applicable to his account. (Id. at 3.)

On January 19, 2011, Capital One sent a letter to Edeh thanking him for the payment of $15.00 that it received on January 5, 2011, and stating that the balance had been paid in full. (Fourth Edeh Aff., Ex. F.) Capital One also indicated that it would notify the credit reporting agencies that the account had been paid in full and that it could take up to 60 days for the credit agencies to update his credit report. (Id.)

On January 19, 2011, Edeh sent a letter to Equifax stating that he was in receipt of its reinvestigation, in which it had represented that Capital One had verified the debt as being reported correctly, and asked that it conduct a meaningful reinvestigation, which included considering all materials provided by the consumer. (Id. ¶ 6 & Ex. F.) The letter enclosed the December 22, 2010, letter from Bryan stating that Capital One had received his $1,700 payment on December 16 and that the account was paid in full, and the January 19, 2011, letter from Capital One thanking him for his payment of $15.00 that it received on January 5, 2011, and stating that the balance had been paid in full. (Id.) Edeh never received any reinvestigation results from Equifax regarding the January 19 dispute and never received from Equifax any notice that this dispute was

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deemed to be frivolous or irrelevant. (Third Edeh Aff. ¶ 2.)

Capital One sent a check, dated February 11, 2011, to Edeh in the amount of $15.00. (Second Edeh Aff., Ex. U at 2.) Equifax's records reflect that Capital One updated Edeh's account information to reflect a zero balance sometime between January 21 and February 18, 2011. (First Smith Decl. ¶ 82.)

Edeh initiated this action on September 15, 2011, alleging that Equifax violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (" FCRA" ), 15 U.S.C. § 1681. (Compl. ¶ 1 [Doc. No. 1].) On October 31, 2011, Edeh filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Liability against Defendants [Doc. No. 19], which was denied. (Mem. & Order at 20 [Doc. No. 92].) On December 16, 2012, Equifax also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 43], which was granted in part and denied in part. (Mem. & Order at 20.) This Court concluded that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Equifax had complied with its duties under 15 U.S.C. § 1681i(a) to provide Capital One with all of the relevant information Equifax possessed regarding Edeh's account and to review and consider all relevant information when it conducted its reinvestigation of Edeh's disputes.[5] (Id. at 11-17.)

The present matter comes before the Court on the parties' respective motions for summary judgment with regard to the remaining § 1681i(a) claims against Equifax.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper if, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); see also Unigroup, Inc. v. O'Rourke Storage & Transfer Co., 980 F.2d 1217, 1219 (8th Cir. 1999). " [S]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 327.

The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing that the material facts in the case are undisputed. Id. at 322-23; see also Mems v. City of St. Paul, Dep't of Fire & Safety Servs., 224 F.3d 735, 738 (8th Cir. 2000). However, a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest on mere allegations or denials, but must set forth specific facts in the record showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256; see also Krenik v. Cnty. of LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). " Only disputes over facts that might affect

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the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." ...


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