Nicholas Malfitano Jan. 15, 2016, 8:44am


PHILADELPHIA – A major credit reporting agency’s motion to stay proceedings in a prospective class action lawsuit filed against it has been denied without prejudice in federal court.

On Tuesday, Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rejected Trans Union’s motion to stay, pending what it believed were relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo and Spokeo Inc. v. Robins.

Plaintiff Deidre Dennis, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, filed suit against Trans Union on May 20, 2014, alleging the defendant “systematically misrepresents to consumers the source of the public record information – such as civil judgments, tax liens, and bankruptcies – that it places on their consumer reports.”

Dennis believed this alleged misrepresentation “deprives consumers of valuable congressionally-mandated information and makes it more difficult for consumers to correct errors relating to those public records, which are caused by defendant and/or its private vendor sources, rather than by any courthouse or other government body that defendant misidentifies as its source for that information.”

A previous motion to dismiss from the defendant was denied in October 2014, but Trans Union moved to stay the lawsuit in July, claiming such a move would narrow the litigation’s issues, prevent time and expense spent on discovery and conserve judicial resources by “allowing this Court the benefit of Supreme Court guidance prior to commencing the next phase of this litigation.”

Specifically, the defendant argued a stay in the instant case will promote judicial economy because “(1) If the Supreme Court holds in Tyson Foods that a class may not be certified where it contains members who were not injured and have no legal right to any damages, plaintiff’s proposed class cannot be certified; and (2) If the Supreme Court holds in Spokeo that proof of actual harm is necessary to recover statutory damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), plaintiff’s proposed class cannot be certified, and this Court will no longer need to resolve discovery issues, review pre-trial briefs, or try plaintiff’s claim as a class claim.”

Dennis responded the defendant’s motion to stay is “premature and inefficient”, due to both the ongoing discovery process and her not yet seeking class certification in this case.

Dennis contended even if the pending Supreme Court cases affected her case, which she believes they will not, a stay of proceedings would be inefficient due to her holding separate individual claims against the defendant also in need of resolution, in addition to the proposed class claim. 

According to the plaintiff, a stay would lead to repetitive and inefficient discovery practices in this case, and future certification of her suit’s proposed class of individuals would be impossible without a complete discovery process to identify that class’s members. Additionally, Dennis termed Trans Union’s motion as “a preemptive challenge” prior to any motion for certification of any class.

Buckwalter agreed.

“Because plaintiff has not yet moved to certify a class, the possible impact of the as-yet undecided Supreme Court cases on the makeup of any proposed class and any accompanying factual or legal issues cannot yet be determined,” Buckwalter said. 

“As a result, it is not clear whether a stay in this litigation would promote judicial economy, or whether it would needlessly delay the progress of plaintiff’s claims as well as those of potential class members,” Buckwalter added.

In the end, Buckwalter felt the defendant did not meet the burden of proof of promoting judicial economy associated with its request and denied the motion to stay proceedings.

The plaintiff is represented by John Soumilas, David A. Searles, Lauren K.W. Brennan and James A. Francis of Frances & Mailman, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Alisa M. Taormina, Brian C. Frontino and Stephen J. Newman of Strook & Strook & Lavan, in Miami, Fla. and Los Angeles, Calif., Andrew M. Lehmann, Camille R. Nicodemus, Robert J. Schuckit and William R. Brown of Schuckit & Associates in Zionsville, Ind. and Casey Green of Sidkoff Pincus & Green, in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:14-cv-02865

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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