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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

11th Circuit affirms FCRA suit dismissal

Courts Appellate Eleventh Circuit FCRA Credit Reporting Agency Consumer Finance

Courts

On December 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of an FCRA case where a furnisher (defendant) allegedly failed to conduct a reasonable investigation in response to materials that the plaintiff had sent to two credit reporting agencies (CRAs), which was then forwarded to the furnisher. According to the opinion, the plaintiff had submitted a letter to each CRA requesting they remove a dispute notation on her credit report with respect to her account with the furnisher because the account in question was no longer being disputed. The CRAs forwarded the plaintiff’s request to the furnisher, who then investigated and notified the CRAs that the account was still being disputed. The plaintiff did not otherwise directly tell the furnisher that she no longer disputed the tradeline. After discovering that the account was still reported as disputed, the plaintiff filed suit under the FCRA against the furnisher for failing to investigate the dispute and failing to direct the CRAs to remove the notation of account in dispute. The district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for the plaintiff’s failure to state a claim.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit found that the letter sent by the plaintiff to the CRAs failed “to make anything clear” to the furnisher. The appellate court explained that the plaintiff “could have written a better letter: one that made clear that she was attempting to revoke her dispute for the first time or, better yet, one addressed to the bank itself. But that is not the letter on which she premised her lawsuit.” The appellate court also noted that, although the furnisher could have contacted the plaintiff directly, the FCRA does not require the furnisher to do so. In effect, “[w]hat [the plaintiff] wants [the bank] to do — either (1) to intuit that she no longer disputed the tradeline from her report to the CRAs or (2) to reach out to her directly to clarify and confirm that she no longer wished to dispute the tradeline — goes beyond what FCRA reasonableness requires,” the appellate court explained in its ruling. The appellate court therefore found that it was reasonable for the furnisher to review its official records, which indicated that the tradeline was still in dispute, and retain the dispute notation on the plaintiff’s credit report.

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