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Leboon v. Equifax Information Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 15, 2019

STEVEN LEBOON, Plaintiff, Pro Se
v.
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          GENE E.K. PRATTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro Se Plaintiff Steven Leboon alleges that Equifax Information Services, LLC violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., by including a collections account from DS Waters of America, Inc. on Mr. Leboon's credit report. Specifically, Mr. Leboon alleges that Equifax failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy in the preparation of his credit report in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b) (Count II); failed to conduct a reasonable reinvestigation of his credit file in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681i (Counts I, III, and VI); failed to provide him access to his credit file upon request in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681g (Count V[1]); and willfully violated these provisions of the FCRA, triggering statutory and punitive damages under 15 U.S.C. § 1681n (Count VII). Mr. Leboon also asserts a Pennsylvania state law claim for the tort of "outrage," more commonly referred to as intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV).

         Equifax moves for dismissal of all of Mr. Leboon's claims. The Court will dismiss Mr. Leboon's Section 1681e(b) and 1681i claims because Mr. Leboon failed to allege how Equifax's reporting of the DS Waters trade line was factually inaccurate. The Court will also dismiss Mr. Leboon's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim because Equifax's alleged conduct does not rise to the level of atrocity needed to sustain a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania law.[2] However, the Court will not dismiss Mr. Leboon's Section 1681g claim because he sufficiently pleaded that Equifax failed to provide him access to his credit report upon request. And because Mr. Leboon pleaded that Equifax willfully ignored his requests for access to his credit report, Mr. Leboon may, at this time, pursue statutory and or punitive damages under Section 1681n.

         Background

         Steven Leboon is a "consumer" as defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(c). Equifax is a "consumer reporting agency" as defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f). In April 2017, Mr. Leboon reviewed a copy of his credit report produced by Equifax. One of the trade lines reflected a collections account reported to Equifax by the Collections Bureau of America, acting on behalf of DS Waters of America, Inc. Amend. Compl. at ¶ 13. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Leboon informed Equifax, among other things, that he believed the DS Waters trade line was "false and improper" and requested that Equifax remove it from his credit report. See Exh. B to Amend. Compl. Mr. Leboon sent additional letters to Equifax regarding the DS Waters trade line in July 2017. See Exh. D to Amend. Compl. A review of these letters, which are attached to Mr. Leboon's Amended Complaint, reveals that Mr. Leboon alleges that the DS Waters trade line should not have been included on his credit report for three reasons: (1) it was not an "FCRA credit account"; (2) no court had entered judgment that he owed the balance; and (3) his contract with DS Waters called for billing disputes to be resolved through arbitration. See Exhs. B and D to Amend. Compl.

         In August 2017, Equifax informed Mr. Leboon that it had "researched the collection account" and "verified that this item ha[d] been reported correctly." See Exh. F to Amend. Compl. Mr. Leboon alleges that Equifax failed to reasonably investigate the DS Waters trade line and failed to delete it from his credit report. Amend. Compl. at ¶ 37. He further alleges that he was subsequently denied credit by three banks because of the presence of the "inaccuracies of the trade-lines" on his credit report. Id. at ¶ 18.

         In May 2018, Mr. Leboon filed this lawsuit against Equifax. Originally, he asserted that Equifax: (1) violated 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b) by failing to remove the allegedly inaccurate information from his credit report; (2) committed common law negligence with respect to the same, and (3) committed civil conspiracy with respect to the same. The Court dismissed Mr. Leboon's original complaint because 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b) applies to furnishers of information under the FCRA, not to consumer reporting agencies like Equifax, his common law negligence claim was preempted by the FCRA, and-without an underlying violation of law-Mr. Leboon could not sustain his civil conspiracy claim. The Court granted Mr. Leboon leave to amend.

         Thereafter, Mr. Leboon filed his Amended Complaint. In addition to claims concerning the allegedly inaccurate DS Waters trade line, Mr. Leboon asserts that, in June 2018, while this case was pending, Equifax blocked him from accessing his credit report. Mr. Leboon states that he complained to Equifax for "weeks" about being unable to access his credit file. Id. at ¶ 27. Equifax allegedly ignored Mr. Leboon's requests until Mr. Leboon sent an email to Equifax's counsel on June 22, 2018 demanding access. Id. at ¶ 26. Mr. Leboon admits that Equifax gave him access to his credit file three days later on June 25, 2018. Id. at ¶ 27.

         Equifax now moves to dismiss Mr. Leboon's Amended Complaint.

         Legal Standard

         At the outset, the Court notes that Mr. Leboon's pro se pleading must be "liberally construed." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); see also Bieros v. Nicola, 839 F.Supp. 332, 334 (E.D. Pa. 1993).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, "to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, '" the plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted) (alteration in original).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Specifically, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The question is not whether the claimant "will ultimately prevail. .. but whether his complaint [is] sufficient to cross the federal court's threshold." Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 530 (2011) (citation and quotations omitted).

         In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court adheres to certain well-recognized parameters. For one, the Court "must consider only those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of the allegations as true." ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994); see also Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) ("[A] court must consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents."). Also, the Court must accept as true all reasonable inferences emanating from the allegations, and view those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Rocks v. City of Phila., 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989).

         That admonition does not demand that the Court ignore or discount reality. The Court "need not accept as true unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences." Doug Grant, Inc. v. Greate Bay Casino Corp.,232 F.3d 173, 183-84 (3d Cir. 2000) (citations and quotations omitted). "[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist.,132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (explaining that a court need not accept a plaintiffs "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions") (citations omitted). If a claim "is vulnerable to 12(b)(6) dismissal, a ...


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