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Russell v. Rjm Acquisitions

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 17, 2014

TONI RUSSELL, Plaintiff,
v.
RJM ACQUISITIONS, Defendant.

ORDER

WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.

The matter before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant RJM Acquisitions (ECF No. 18).

I. Background

On December 14, 2012, Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint, which is the operative pleading in this action. (ECF No. 3). The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant "obtained or inquired into her Trans[U]nion consumer credit report" in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. Id. at 1.

On October 4, 2013, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment accompanied by evidence in support of the motion. (ECF No. 18). On January 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 38). On February 7, 2014, Defendant filed a Response in Support of the Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 41).

After review of the briefs and evidence submitted by the parties, the Court finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument.[1] See S.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7.1(d)(1).

II. Facts

Defendant RJM Acquisitions is a purchaser and collector of unpaid debts. On or about December 12, 2005, Defendant purchased a portfolio of credit accounts owned by NCOP/CF, LLC. (Declaration of Douglas Greenberg ("Greenberg Decl.") ECF No. 18-4, ¶ 3). One of the assets purchased was Lane Bryant merchant credit card account number XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Id. As of December 12, 2005, Defendant was the owner and holder of the Lane Bryant merchant credit card account number XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX ("Lane Bryant Account"). Id. NCOP/CF, LLC provided Defendant with information indicating that the Lane Bryant Account was opened by a Toni S. Russell on or about February 3, 1998. Id. ¶ 4. The information provided by NCOP/CF, LLC also indicated that the Lane Bryant Account went into default for non-payment and was charged with a balance due of $449.06 on or about March 3, 2000. Id. NCOP/CF, LLC also provided the Social Security number of the debtor, Toni S. Russell, and a last known address at P.O. Box 152544, San Diego, California XXXXX-XXXX. Id.

After Defendant became the owner and holder of the Lane Bryant Account, Defendant attempted to collect on the Lane Bryant Account by utilizing a TransUnion program available to creditors/debt collectors that uses a debtor's last known information to provide address and contact updates. Id. ¶ 5. Defendant's use of the TransUnion program was intended to verify the correct and current contact information of the debtor, Toni S. Russell, to assist in the collection of the overdue Lane Bryant Account. Id.

Each time an address is updated through the TransUnion program used by Defendant, a "soft inquiry" is placed upon the consumer's file within the credit bureau's database. Id. ¶ 6. These "soft inquiries" let the debtor know that a creditor has sought contact information. Id. The "soft inquiries" are only visible to the debtor and are not seen by a potential creditor reviewing the debtor's credit history, nor are they used in the calculation of the consumer's credit score. Id. Defendant never placed a negative notation on Plaintiff's credit report. Id.

After reviewing her TransUnion credit report, Plaintiff discovered that Defendant had obtained or inquired into her TransUnion consumer credit report on June 17, 2010, October 25, 2010, October 26, 2010, October 30, 2010, and June 22, 2011. (ECF No. 3 ¶ 7; ECF No. 38 at 2-3). Throughout this entire time period, Defendant was the owner and holder of the Lane Bryant Account, which identified the original debtor as Toni S. Russell. (Greenberg Decl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 18-4). At no time did Defendant access information regarding Toni S. Russell through any credit reporting agency for any purpose other than collection of debt owned and held by Defendant. Id. The information Defendant has obtained indicates that Plaintiff is the person who obtained credit from the merchant who originally provided credit, Lane Bryant. Id. ¶ 8.

III. Contentions of the Parties

Defendant contends that its use of the TransUnion program "was intended to verify the correct and current contact information of the debtor (Toni S. Russell) to assist in the collection of the overdue Lane Bryant account." (ECF No. 18-1 at 2). Defendant contends that "[t]his constitutes a permissible purpose' for accessing the contact information of the debtor under the Fair Credit Reporting Act." Id. Defendant contends that it properly obtained Plaintiff's updated contact information through TransUnion "because it obtained the report in attempting to collect the $449.06 Lane Bryant debt it purchased from NCOP/CF, LLC. [Defendant] had clear reason to believe' that Toni Russell owed that debt, in that [] her last contact information was supplied by NCOP/CF, LLC as the debtor." Id. at 6. Defendant also contends that "Plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts to support a claim under the FCRA and the few facts actually included [in] Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint are fatal to any possible claim for relief."

Plaintiff contends that "summary judgment is improper in this case because there are genuine issues of material fact on at least one element of Plaintiff's cause of action for violation of the FCRA" and that Defendant had "no permissible purpose to obtain Plaintiff's credit report from TransUnion." (ECF No. 38 at 2). ...


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