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Benton v. Clarity Services, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 4, 2018

JOYCE BENTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CLARITY SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Re: Dkt. No. 65

          MAXINE M. CHESNEY, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is defendant Clarity Services, Inc.'s (“Clarity”) Motion for Summary Judgment, filed December 28, 2017. Plaintiff Joyce Benton (“Benton”) has filed opposition, to which Clarity has replied, after which, Benton filed, with leave of Court, a surreply. The Court, having read and considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, rules as follows.

         BACKGROUND

         Clarity is a consumer reporting agency (“CRA”) within the meaning of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., and, as such, “provides consumer information to assist customers assess risk, prevent fraud, and make credit decisions.” (See Dunham Decl., filed Dec. 28, 2017, ¶ 5.) Between August 2015 and November 2015, Clarity disclosed consumer “information on Benton” (see id. ¶¶ 38-39) to MobiLoans, LLC (“MobiLoans”) and Red Rock Tribal Lending, LLC (“Red Rock”), two customers with whom Clarity had contracts, which disclosures, Benton contends, were in violation of the FCRA.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a “court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

         The Supreme Court's 1986 “trilogy” of Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986), and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986), requires that a party seeking summary judgment show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Once the moving party has done so, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (internal quotation and citation omitted). “When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56[ ], its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. “If the [opposing party's] evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). “[I]nferences to be drawn from the underlying facts, ” however, “must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         Benton brings her claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1681b, which provides, in relevant part:

(a) [A]ny [CRA] may furnish a consumer report under the following circumstances and no other: . . . (3) [t]o a person which it has reason to believe . . . (A) intends to use the information in connection with a credit transaction involving the consumer on whom the information is to be furnished and involving the extension of credit to, or review or collection of an account of, the consumer[.]
. . . .
(c)(1) A [CRA] may furnish a consumer report relating to any consumer pursuant to [§ 1681(a)(3)(A)] . . . in connection with any credit or insurance transaction that is not initiated by the consumer only if . . . (B)(i) the transaction consists of a firm offer of credit[.]

15 U.S.C. § 1681b. A “[f]irm offer of credit” is “any offer of credit . . . to a consumer that will be honored if the consumer is determined, based on information in a consumer report on the consumer, to meet the specific criteria used to select the consumer for the offer.” See id. § 1681a(1).

         Benton contends that Clarity, in light of information it received in the course of its investigation of MobiLoans and Red Rock, a process referred to by the parties as “credentialing, ” willfully violated § 1681b by furnishing consumer reports to those entities without “reason to believe” the information contained therein would be used only to make “firm offers” of ...


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