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Pintos v. Pacific Creditors Association

April 30, 2009; see amended opinion filed May 21, 2010


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Claudia Wilken, District Judge, Presiding, D.C. No. CV-03-05471-CW.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Clifton, Circuit Judge



Argued and Submitted January 9, 2007 -- San Francisco, California.

Before: Mary M. Schroeder, Richard R. Clifton, and Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges.*fn1

Opinion by Judge Clifton; Dissent by Judge Bea.


The opinion in the above-captioned matter filed on September 21, 2007, and published at 504 F.3d 792, is WITHDRAWN. The superseding opinion shall be filed concurrently with this order. The pending petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc is dismissed as moot. The parties may file new petitions as to the opinion for rehearing and rehearing en banc in accordance with the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.


Maria E. Pintos appeals the district court's summary adjudication of her claims under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. Pintos contends that Pacific Creditors Association ("PCA") violated the FCRA by obtaining, without any FCRA-sanctioned purpose, a credit report on her from Experian Information Solutions, Inc., a credit reporting agency. Pintos also argues that Experian violated the FCRA by furnishing the report to PCA.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding that PCA was authorized to obtain Pintos's credit report under the FCRA, which allows for the furnishing of reports "in connection with a credit transaction involving the consumer . . . and involving the . . . collection of an account of[ ] the consumer." 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(a)(3)(A). The district court determined that the transaction involved the collection of an account, relying upon our decision in Hasbun v. County of Los Angeles, 323 F.3d 801 (9th Cir. 2003). We conclude that Hasbun is more limited, however. Because the current case involves neither a transaction for which Pintos sought credit nor the collection of a judgment debt, we conclude that § 1681b(a)(3)(A) did not authorize PCA to obtain the credit report on Pintos. Thus, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings regarding the defendants' liability. We also vacate the district court's order regarding Experian's motion to seal certain documents and remand for consideration under the proper legal standard.

I. Background

Police officers found a sport utility vehicle belonging to Pintos parked on the street in San Bruno, California, on May 29, 2002. The vehicle's registration was expired. At police direction, the vehicle was towed, and the towing company, P&S Towing, obtained a lien on the vehicle for towing and impound costs. P&S later sold the vehicle when Pintos failed to reclaim it or pay the outstanding charges. Since the vehicle's sale price did not cover the amount owed, P&S asserted a deficiency claim against Pintos and later transferred that claim to PCA, a collection agency.*fn2

PCA sought and obtained a credit report on Pintos from Experian on December 5, 2002, in connection with its effort to collect on the debt assigned by P&S. Pintos subsequently filed a complaint against PCA and Experian under the FCRA. She alleged that PCA violated the FCRA by obtaining her credit report without any FCRA-sanctioned purpose and that Experian was liable for providing the report to PCA.

PCA and Experian filed separate motions for summary judgment. Both argued that, under 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(a)(3)(A), PCA had a permissible purpose for obtaining Pintos's credit report because it was seeking to collect a debt, the towing deficiency claim. Experian further argued that it was not liable for a violation because it had fulfilled its obligations under 15 U.S.C. § 1681e, which immunizes a reporting agency against FCRA violations by the agency's subscribers so long as the agency takes certain steps.

Pintos filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment on the issues of permissible purpose and Experian's alleged negligence. She attached to that motion several Experian documents detailing the company's internal procedures for complying with its FCRA obligations. Claiming these documents were confidential and proprietary, Experian filed a motion to seal them.

The district court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment on November 9, 2004. Citing Hasbun, the court agreed that § 1681b(a)(3)(A) permitted PCA to obtain Pintos's credit report. The court denied Experian's motion to seal documents, without explanation.

Pintos filed a timely notice of appeal on December 8, 2004. Experian cross-appealed the district court's denial of its motion to seal on December 9, 2004. It also sought reconsideration by the district court of the denial of that motion. On April 29, 2005, the district court held that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter since Experian already appealed the order to this court. Nevertheless, the court stated that, if it had jurisdiction, it would grant Experian's motion under Phillips ex rel. Estates ...

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