United States District Court, C.D. California
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS: Not Present.
ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANTS: Not Present.
HONORABLE JOHN F. WALTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CIVIL MINUTES -- GENERAL
PROCEEDINGS (IN CHAMBERS): ORDER GRANTING IN PART, DENYING IN PART CHASE BANK USA, N.A.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, ORDER THAT THERE ARE NO MATERIAL FACTS GENUINELY IN DISPUTE AS TO CERTAIN PLAINTIFF'S DAMAGE CLAIMS [filed 12/8/2014; Docket No. 30]
On December 8, 2014, Defendant Chase Bank, USA, N.A. (" Chase"), erroneously sued as J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, filed a Motion for Summary Judgment or, in the Alternative, Order that There are No Material Facts Genuinely in Dispute as to Certain Plaintiff's Damage Claims. On December 22, 2014, Plaintiff Craig Allen Rogers (" Rogers") filed his Opposition. On December 29, 2014, Chase filed a Reply. Pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 7-15, the Court found the matter appropriate for submission on the papers without oral argument. The matter was, therefore, removed from the Court's January 12, 2015 hearing calendar and the parties were given advance notice. After considering the moving, opposing, and reply papers, and the arguments therein, the Court rules as follows:
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In this action, Rogers claims that Chase is liable for reporting derogatory information to credit reporting agencies in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act.
A. History of the 1505 Account and the 4931 Account.
Chase opened credit card account xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-1505 (the " 1505 Account") for Rogers via an internet application on May 24, 2007. Chase sent monthly billing statements to Rogers at his correct address of record in Spring Valley, California through September 28, 2007.
On or about October 22, 2007, Chase received a request to change the address on the 1505 Account to 3125 Park Avenue, Apartment 11C, Bronx, New York. To verify the validity of this request, Chase sent a letter to Rogers at his address of record in Spring Valley, California on October 22, 2007. In response to Chase's letter, Rogers called and notified Chase that he had not moved to New York. During the call, Rogers confirmed that he was responsible for all of the charges on the 1505 Account through October 26, 2007. Because of the possibility of fraud, Chase immediately closed the 1505 Account and, on the same day, transferred Rogers' existing balance to account xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-4931 (the " 4931 Account").
On February 11, 2008, Chase received a request to change the address on Rogers' new 4931 Account to the Bronx address. To verify the validity of this request, Chase again sent a letter to Rogers at his address of record in Spring Valley, California. On February 18, 2008, Rogers called Chase and again informed Chase that he had not moved to New York. As a result, Chase blocked the 4931 Account so that it could not be used. The billing statements reflect that timely payments had been made on the 4931 Account through February 2008.
Despite being advised that the Bronx address was not Rogers' correct address, Chase erroneously sent the billing statements for the 4931 Account for the periods ending February 28, 2008 through July 28, 2008 to the Bronx address rather than to Rogers' correct California address. Because Rogers made no payments on the 4931 Account during this time, late fees and finance charges were assessed on the outstanding balance in March, April, May, June, and July of 2008. Chase reported the delinquencies on the 4931 Account to the three main credit reporting agencies.
In August 2008, Chase finally realized its error and removed the incorrect Bronx address from the 4931 Account. After Chase corrected the error, Chase resumed sending the monthly statements, including the statements for the periods ending August 28, 2008 and September 28, 2008, to Rogers' correct California address. Because there was an unpaid and " charged off" balance of $7, 625.31 as of September 28, 2008, Chase filed a collection lawsuit against Rogers on October 8, 2008.
B. Rogers disputes Chase's derogatory reporting of the 4931 Account.
On September 25, 2008 and October 6, 2008, Rogers submitted disputes to the three main credit reporting agencies, including Equifax, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by Chase with respect to the 4931 Account. In response to each of these disputes, the credit reporting agencies sent an Automated Consumer Dispute Verification to Chase (the " 2008 ACDVs"). Declaration of Pieter A. Post (" Post Decl.") at ¶ 10, Exhibit 9. According to the 2008 ACDVs, Rogers disputed the " present/previous Account Status/Payment History Profile/Payment Rating" and claimed that the 4931 Account was either fraudulently opened, taken over, or used by an identity thief. Id.
On September 26, 2008, Rogers also sent Chase a letter which explained the history of the 4931 Account, and stated " you have slanderously reported me as delinquent to all credit reporting agencies when I have not received a valid accurate statement from you since the closing date of January 28, 2008 to pay from." Declaration of Craig Allen Rogers (" Rogers Decl.") at ¶ 3, Exhibit 37. Because Rogers acknowledged in his letter that he had incurred and was responsible for all of the relevant charges through October 23, 2007, Chase rejected Rogers' claims of fraud or identity theft in the 2008 ACDVs, and continued to report the 4931 Account as delinquent or past due or " charged off."
On October 24, 2008, Arthur Shwachman of the Chase Legal Department responded to Rogers' September 26, 2008 letter. Post Decl. at ¶ 12, Exhibit 11. Although Mr. Shwachman noted that all charges on the 4931 account appeared to be valid, he acknowledged the " inconvenience" experienced by Rogers " due to the attempted fraud" and offered to settle the account for a single lump-sum payment of $3, 342.43 (half of the outstanding balance), payable in 60 days. Id. As part of this settlement offer, Chase offered to file a dismissal of the lawsuit filed against Rogers, and to instruct all three major credit reporting agencies to delete the 4931 account from Rogers' credit records once payment was made. Id.
Although Rogers rejected Chase's offer, he made a written counteroffer in which he would pay the sum of $3, 342.43 in nine equal monthly payments, provided that Chase would " immediately withdraw the derogatory reporting on all three credit reporting agencies" and that, after the nine monthly payments were made, " report this account as 'Paid Satisfactorily' and NOT as a charge off to all credit reporting agencies." Post Decl. at ¶ 13, Exhibit 12. On December 30, 2008, Chase agreed to Rogers' monthly payment terms in a letter, which states: " As to the account ending in 4931, we are willing to settle that account for $3, 342.43 paid out over 9 months as per your request. . . .A settlement letter outlining the terms of the settlement will be mailed to you shortly." Post Decl. at ¶ 14, Exhibit 13. On December 31, 2008, Chase sent a letter confirming that Chase would accept $3, 342.43 as settlement in full, in accordance with an attached payment schedule. Post Decl. at ¶ 14, Exhibit 14. In the December 30, 2008 and December 31, 2008 letters, Chase made no reference to removing any derogatory reporting or deleting the account from Rogers' credit file.
On January 7, 2009, Rogers sent another letter to Chase, enclosing the first of the nine monthly payments. In that letter, he complained that his credit reports showed that Chase was continuing to report derogatory information, including, for example, that it had charged off the 4931 Account as a bad debt. Post Decl. at ¶ 14, Exhibit 15. On January 29, 2009, Mr. Shwachman responded to Rogers' letter, stating in relevant part:
Our office is in receipt of your letter dated January 7, 2009 and consideration of the facts and circumstances regarding the above-referenced account, our office will reverse the charge-off and have your credit report show the account as zero days delinquent. Please continue to make your settlement payments and once the final settlement has been sent to us, contact my office so that we may inform the credit reporting agencies that the account has been settled in full .
Post Decl. at ¶ 15, Exhibit 16 (emphasis added). Unbeknownst to Rogers, " settled in full" is considered a negative or derogatory comment on a credit report. Rogers did not respond to Mr. Shwachman's letter, and on February 5, 2009, Chase instructed the credit reporting agencies to change the charge-off and to report the 4931 Account with no delinquencies and " paying as agreed." Post Decl. at ¶ 16, Exhibit 17.
Rogers timely made the nine monthly payments pursuant to his agreement with Chase, and, on October 13, 2009, Chase requested dismissal of its collection lawsuit against Rogers. Post Decl. at ¶ 17, Exhibit 18. After the lawsuit was dismissed, Chase reported the 4931 account as " paid in full for less than full balance" and " paid/closed with zero balance."
On November 23, 2009, Rogers sent yet another letter to Chase, complaining that Chase was still reporting damaging data to the credit reporting agencies in violation of their agreement, and demanding Chase to correct its inaccurate reporting immediately. Post Decl. at ...