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Fields v. Trans Union, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 26, 2018

MERETE FIELDS, Plaintiff,
v.
TRANS UNION, LLC et al., Defendants.

          ORDER - MEMORANDUM

          C. Darnell Jones, II Judge

         AND NOW, this 26th day of March, 2018, upon consideration of Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1), Defendant Bank of America, N.A.'s Motion to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 26 and 27) and all responses and replies thereto (ECF Nos. 29 and 36), Defendant JP Morgan Chase's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 11) and all responses and replies thereto (ECF Nos. 20 and 25), and Defendant Northland Group Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 21 and 22) and all responses and replies thereto (ECF Nos. 28 and 33), it is hereby ORDERED as follows:

1. Defendant Bank of America, N.A.'s Motion (ECF Nos. 26 and 27) is DENIED.
2. Defendant JP Morgan Chase's Motion to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 11) is GRANTED. Plaintiff's claim against Defendant JP Morgan Chase shall be referred to the federal arbitration program forthwith.
3. Defendant Northland Group Inc.'s Motion (ECF Nos. 21 and 22) is GRANTED. Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Northland Group Inc. is hereby DISMISSED without prejudice. Plaintiff is granted leave to amend Count II of the Complaint within fourteen (14) days of the date of this Order-Memorandum.

         Relevant Background

         The following facts are presented in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. In February 2008, Plaintiff entered into an agreement with Defendant Bank of America, N.A. (“BoA”) to cosign her then-husband's student loans. (ECF No. 27, ex. A.) In August of the same year, Plaintiff entered into an almost identical agreement with Defendant JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”). (ECF No. 11, ex. A.) Plaintiff and her former husband divorced four years later. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 11.) As part of the stipulated Divorce Agreement, Plaintiff's former husband assumed sole responsibility of his outstanding student loan debt, and was required to indemnify Plaintiff for any of her obligations related thereto. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 11.) Despite the terms of Plaintiff's Divorce Agreement, in late 2016, Defendant Northland Group, Inc. (“NGI”) contacted Plaintiff by mail and demanded that Plaintiff pay toward an outstanding balance on her former husband's Chase loan. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 12.) And around that time, Plaintiff noticed that her credit reports - as provided by the defendant credit agencies - reflected negative credit information with respect to the Chase and BoA student loans. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 16.) Plaintiff formally disputed the accuracy of the BoA and Chase trade lines with Defendants Trans Union, LLC (“Trans Union”) and Equifax. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 17.) In the filed disputes, Plaintiff enclosed her Divorce Agreement and informed the defendant credit agencies that Plaintiff's former husband was required by court order to indemnify Plaintiff for any of her responsibilities under the loan agreements. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 18.) Both Trans Union and Equifax acknowledged receipt of Plaintiff's dispute, and the dispute was forwarded to Defendants Chase and BoA for review. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 19-20). At some point thereafter, Plaintiff was informed that her accounts with Defendants Chase and BoA had been “verified, ” and that there would be no changes made to the disputed credit information. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 21.)

         In March 2017, Defendant NGI made two additional attempts to collect payment from Plaintiff. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 24.) In May 2017, Plaintiff again disputed the accuracy of the reported credit information related to the Chase and BoA student loans with Defendants Trans Union and Equifax. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 27.) In her second dispute, Plaintiff again advised the defendant credit agencies that Plaintiff's husband was under court order to pay any remaining balances on the reported loans. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 28.) Plaintiff enclosed her Divorce Agreement for their reference. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 28.) Both Defendant Trans Union and Defendant Equifax acknowledged receipt of Plaintiff's second dispute, and reportedly forwarded said dispute to Defendants Chase and BoA. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 29-30.) Once again, Defendants Trans Union and Equifax notified Plaintiff that her accounts with Defendants Chase and BoA had been “verified, ” and that no changes would be made to the disputed credit information. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 31.)

         After Plaintiff's second attempt to dispute the alleged inaccuracies in her credit report Defendant NGI contacted Plaintiff in an effort to collect on outstanding balances owed to Defendant Chase. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 35, 38.) According to Plaintiff, each time Defendants NGI engaged in collection efforts on behalf of the Defendant Chase, the amount sought in collection differed from the amounts reflected in Plaintiff's credit reports. (ECF No. 28, p. 4.) Based on all of the foregoing, Plaintiff's credit score dropped substantially, Plaintiff was denied for a personal loan, and two of Plaintiff's credit cards were closed. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 41.)

         The instant action alleges violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and state tort law. Defendants BoA and NGI timely filed Motions to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant Chase also seeks dismissal of the Complaint for failure to state a claim, but asks that in the alternative, the Court compel Plaintiff to arbitrate her claims against Defendant Chase. The Court considers each Defendant's Motion herein.

         Standard of Review

         In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). After the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This standard, which applies to all civil cases, “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. at 678; accord Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (“[A]ll civil complaints must contain more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Analysis

         In the interests of clarity, the Court considers the merits of ...


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