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Lawrence v. Trans Union LLC

December 11, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.


On July 3, 2002, plaintiff Grace Lawrence ("Lawrence") filed this action against defendant Trans Union ("TU"), a credit reporting agency, for damages sustained when TU allegedly published false information on her credit report. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, the motion is denied in part and granted in part.

Factual Backgound

In 1996, Lawrence won a small claims lawsuit in the Municipal Court of Philadelphia and had a judgment entered in her favor in the amount of $2,951.*fn2 Although the judgment was in Lawrence's favor, in 1997 TU began mistakenly reporting this judgment against her. In late 1997, Lawrence was denied college loans for her daughter's education by Sallie May and Key Bank. Both informed Lawrence that the application had been denied because TU had reported an unpaid judgment against her. Pl's Br. Opp'n Def's Mot. Summ. J., Ex. D.

Over the next six years, Lawrence made several efforts to have this erroneous judgment deleted from her credit report. Lawrence Dep. at 10-11. Between 1997 and 1998, TU actually deleted the false judgment from Lawrence's report several times, only to reassert it. Pl's Br. Opp'n Def's Mot. Summ. J., Ex. E. In February 2001, Lawrence re-issued her request by letter to TU that it again remove the erroneous judgment against her. Lawrence Dep. at 47. Enclosed with the letter, plaintiff included copies of the Municipal Court docket in her case reflecting that the judgment was in her favor. TU again failed to correct the information on Lawrence's credit report, refusing to rely on the docket because it was not a "stamped" document. Little Dep. at 26-27. TU made no effort to procure a stamped docket from the Municipal Court, nor did it inform Lawrence that the docket she provided was insufficient. TU simply sent plaintiff letters informing her that the judgment had been verified as complete and accurate. Pl's Br. Opp'n Def's Mot. Summ. J., Ex. I. On August 2, 2001, Lawrence was denied a credit card from Chase because of the misreported judgment.*fn3 Id. at Ex. K. In addition to the Chase credit card denial, other creditors offered her interest rates higher than those a consumer with excellent credit should have gotten. Lawrence Dep. at 71-72. Between August of 2000 and March of 2001, many of Lawrence's creditors, including Sears, Chase, Cenlar Mortgage, Universal Bank and Strawbridges conducted account reviews of her credit report. Pl's Br. Opp'n Def's Mot. Summ. J., Ex. M. In addition to the damage to her credit, Lawrence maintains that she has suffered embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress, anxiety, frustration and damage to her reputation as a result of defendant's publication of the erroneous judgment to third parties.

Defendant TU contracts with a vendor, Superior Information Services ("Superior") to compile and furnish judgments and liens. Superior's contract with TU requires Superior to verify disputed information by physically visiting the relevant courthouse and retrieving the information. Superior charges TU approximately five dollars per investigation. TU itself never contacted the Philadelphia Municipal Court Records Department to verify Lawrence's judgment, nor is it aware of whether Superior ever sought this information. TU's practice in addressing consumers' disputes over credit reports is to simply adopt the conclusion of Superior.*fn4 In fact, TU still has not independently verified the accuracy of the judgment reported against Lawrence.

Little Dep. at 69-70.

Lawrence claims (1) Violation of sections 1681e(b) and 1681i(a) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); (2) Defamation; (3) Violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. §201.1 et seq. ("PA CPL"); (4) Negligence; and (5) Invasion of Privacy.


TU argues in support of its motion for summary judgment that: (1) recovery is barred by the statute of limitations, (2) there is insufficient evidence to support plaintiff's claims under sections 1681e(b) and 1681i of the FCRA, (3) the punitive damages claims fail because plaintiff has not proven willfulness, (4) the common law claims fail because of TU's qualified immunity, and (5) Lawrence's claims under the PA CPL fail because they are preempted by the FCRA, or in the alternative that Lawrence has no claim under the PA CPL. "Summary judgment should be granted if, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the court concludes that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be resolved at trial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Kornegay v. Cottingham, 120 F.3d 392, 395 (3d Cir. 1997). I will address each argument in turn.

Statute of Limitations

TU seeks dismissal of both of Lawrence's claims brought under the FCRA as violating the applicable two year statute of limitations. Lawrence filed this lawsuit on July 3, 2002 and therefore TU contends that all claims arising before July 3, 2000 are time-barred. "An action to enforce any liability under [the FCRA] may be brought. . . within two years from the date on which the liability arises." 15 U.S.C. § 1681p. "The date on which liability arises depends on which provision allegedly was violated." Acton v. Bank One Corp., 2003 WL 22807727 at *2 (D.Ariz. Nov. 7, 2003).

Lawrence's first claim under the FCRA is that TU violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b).*fn5

Liability arises under ยง 1681e(b) when the consumer reporting agency issues an inaccurate consumer report. Id. Each transmission of the same credit report is a separate and distinct tort to which a separate statute of limitations applies. Jaramillo v. ...

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