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Bruno v. Equifax Credit Information Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 30, 2017

DANIEL BRUNO, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
EQUIFAX INFORMATION SERVICES, LLC and GENEVA FINANCIAL SERVICES, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTIONS TO STRIKE

          WILLIAM B. SHUBB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Daniel Bruno brought this putative class action against defendants Equifax Information Services, LLC (“Equifax”) and Geneva Financial Services, LLC (“Geneva”), [1] alleging that defendants sold his and putative class members' consumer reports to other parties for impermissible marketing purposes in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). (Compl. (Docket No. 1).) Before the court are plaintiff's Motions to strike each of the defenses alleged in defendants' Answers. (Pl.'s Mot. as to Equifax (Docket No. 41); Pl.'s Mot. as to Geneva (Docket No. 43).)

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff is a California resident. (See Compl. Ex. B, Car Loan Notice (indicating plaintiff resides in California) (Docket No. 1-2).) Equifax is a credit reporting agency. (Compl. ¶ 37.) Geneva is allegedly a collector of consumer credit information and intermediary between Equifax and various marketing agencies. (See Id. ¶¶ 17, 28.)

         In February 2016, plaintiff received a notice from a Hanlees Nissan Chevrolet (“Hanlees”) stating that he had been prequalified for a car loan of $5, 500 to $39, 000. (Car Loan Notice.) The notice identified Geneva as the lender. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the notice was sent to him because Geneva obtained a copy of his consumer report from Equifax and forwarded the report to a marketing agency that was working on Hanlees' behalf. (See Compl. ¶¶ 17, 21, 43.)

         After receiving the car loan notice, plaintiff contacted Hanlees to apply for the loan the notice stated he had been prequalified for. (Id. ¶ 23.) Hanlees advised him to contact Geneva regarding the loan. (Id.) When plaintiff contacted Geneva regarding the loan, Geneva allegedly informed him that it “did not finance vehicles for purchase and instructed him to contact the . . . car dealership for financing approval.” (Id. ¶ 26.)

         Plaintiff thereafter filed this putative class action. (Id. at 23.) Plaintiff alleges that his experience with Hanlees and Geneva was the result of a nationwide scheme whereby Equifax sells “tens of thousands of consumer reports” to Geneva and Geneva sells such reports to and partners with various marketing agencies for the purpose of “conduct[ing] promotional inquiries [using] bogus firm offers of credit.” (See Id. ¶¶ 17, 21, 30.) Such a scheme, plaintiff contends, violates the FCRA. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff brings a cause of action against defendants for furnishing and failing to maintain reasonable procedures designed to avoid furnishing consumer reports to other parties for “impermissible marketing purposes” in violation 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681b and 1681e(a). (Id. at 16-18.) Plaintiff also brings causes of action against Geneva for obtaining consumer reports for “impermissible marketing purposes” in violation of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681b(f) and 1681e(e), and obtaining such reports under false pretenses in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1681q. (Id. at 18-21.)

         Defendants have filed separate Answers to plaintiff's Complaint. (See Equifax's Answer (Docket No. 32); Geneva's Answer (Docket No. 34).) Equifax alleges seven defenses[2] in its Answer. (Equifax's Answer at 12-13.) Geneva alleges sixteen defenses in its Answer. (Geneva's Answer at 11-14.) Plaintiff now moves to strike each of the defenses alleged in defendants' Answers under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). (Pl.'s Mot. as to Equifax; Pl.'s Mot. as to Geneva.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 12(f) authorizes the court to strike “insufficient” affirmative defenses[3] and “redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter[s]” from pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f).

         Affirmative defenses may be insufficient “as a matter of law” or “as a matter of pleading.” Harris v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., 303 F.R.D. 625, 627 (E.D. Cal. 2014) (citing Dodson v. Strategic Rests. Acquisition Co. II, LLC, 289 F.R.D. 595, 603 (E.D. Cal. 2013) (Karlton, J.)). An affirmative defense is insufficient as a matter of law “if it lacks merit under any set of facts the defendant might allege.” Id. (citing Dodson, 289 F.R.D. at 603). An affirmative defense is insufficient as a matter of pleading if it fails to provide “fair notice” of its nature and grounds to the plaintiff. Kohler v. Flava Enters., Inc., 779 F.3d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 2015).[4] “Fair notice” of an affirmative defense only requires that the defendant describe the defense in “general terms.” Id.

         “[R]edundant” matters are those “that are needlessly repetitive.” City of Colton v. Am. Promotional Events, Inc., No. EDCV 09-1864 PSG SSX, 2012 WL 32606, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 5, 2012). “[I]mmaterial” matters are those “which [have] no essential or important relationship to the claim[s] for relief or the defenses being pleaded.” Id. “[I]mpertinent” matters are those “that do not pertain, and are not necessary, to the issues in question.” Id. “[S]candalous” matters are those that “improperly cast[] a derogatory light on someone, usually a party.” Wilkerson v. Butler, 229 F.R.D. 166, 170 (E.D. Cal. 2005) (O'Neill, J.).

         III. Discussion

         A. Defenses That Are Not ...


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