PHILADELPHIA – A plaintiff’s lack of response in litigation related to alleged violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by a related agency, has led a federal judge to grant summary judgment to the case’s defendant.

On Jan. 3, U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia M. Rufe ruled summary judgment is entered in favor of defendant Allied Interstate, LLC and against plaintiff Scottland Johnson, due to Johnson’s not responding to said summary judgment motion in his FCRA-related case.

Johnson filed a lawsuit on July 28 against Allied Interstate, a debt collector, alleging two violations of the FCRA. Johnson alleged on July 31, 2015, Allied Interstate obtained Johnson’s consumer credit report from Transunion, a third-party credit bureau, without his consent.

Johnson claims this was tantamount to “willful and negligent non-compliance with the FCRA”, which usually forbids access to a consumer’s credit report without a “permissible purpose,” under the statute. Allied Interstate moved to dismiss, arguing it permissibly accessed Johnson’s credit report as part of an effort to collect on a debt Johnson owed to T-Mobile USA, Inc. Johnson did not respond.

Rufe explained Allied Interstate’s motion was based in part on evidence not mentioned in the complaint – namely, three letters from Allied Interstate to Johnson establishing that the defendant had been retained to collect on plaintiff’s debt to T-Mobile.

“The Court converted Allied Interstate’s motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment on Nov. 28, and provided Johnson the opportunity to respond. Plaintiff did not do so, and the Court will now resolve defendant’s motion on the merits,” Rufe said.

“Defendant is entitled to summary judgment because uncontroverted evidence shows that defendant accessed plaintiff’s credit report in order to collect on a debt owed by plaintiff, which is permissible under the FCRA. The FCRA imposes civil liability on any person who willfully or negligently obtains a consumer credit report for a purpose that is not authorized by the statute,” Rufe stated.

Rufe said the statute allows distribution of a consumer report to “an entity that intends to use the information in connection with a credit transaction involving the consumer…and involving the…review or collection of an account of, the consumer” and many courts have held that “the collection of a debt is a permissible purpose for seeking a consumer’s credit report.”

“Here, defendant has submitted three letters, all dated before defendant accessed plaintiff’s credit report, showing that defendant was retained by T-Mobile to collect on plaintiff’s debt. This establishes that defendant acted with a permissible purpose under the FCRA when it accessed plaintiff’s credit report. Accordingly, defendant’s motion will be granted,” Rufe said.

The defendant is represented by Christine M. Debevec and Thomas Francis Lucchesi of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:16-cv-03933

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

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