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Friday, September 4, 2009

New FCRA case - Hamilton v. DirecTV

A new FCRA opinion was handed down on August 14, 2009 by District Judge W. Harold Albritton in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division.

The case is styled Annie Hamilton v. DirecTV, but includes claims against Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.  Hamilton claimed that DirecTV had placed seven fictitious accounts on her credit reports with Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.  Hamilton disputed the accounts to the credit bureaus, who all removed the accounts only to reinsert one of the accounts back onto all of her credit reports.  NOTE TO PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY - that's a claim right there - violation of 1681i's requirement that the credit bureaus inform the consumer before reinserting an account that was previously deleted.  After the reinsertion of the account, Hamilton disputed the account to the credit bureaus again, who refused to remove it.  Equifax did remove the account for a while, only to reinsert it again.

The issue before Judge Albritton was a motion for partial dismissal filed by Trans Union and joined by Experian and Equifax.  The motion sought to dismiss Hamilton's claim for injunctive relief, namely seeking a declaratory judgment that she did not owe DirecTV and enjoining the CRAs from publishing the account on her credit reports. 

The problem is that the FCRA does not provide for injunctive relief as only the FTC can "enforce" the FCRA while private consumers can only receive compensation for their injuries caused by violations of the FCRA.  The Plaintiff tries to do an end run around the FCRA by claiming that she can get injunctive relief via her defamation claim.  While I agree that the Plaintiff's defamation claim is not preempted by 15 U.S.C. 1681h(e) of the FCRA, a defamation claim is not a means to get injunctive relief. 

Based on this. Judge Albritton correctly granted the Defendants' motion for partial dismissal, thereby eliminating Hamilton's claims for injunctive and declaratory relief. 

While this is a correct decision, what does it really get the CRAs?  Are they really going to reinsert the fictitious account again and just subject themselves to more litigation and liability to the Plaintiff?  Surely not.  The only reason to even file such a motion was to run up attorneys' fees for the defense lawyers and to make the plaintiff's attorney work harder to get justice for his client.  I can tell you for a fact that the CRAs lawyers do this to lawyers new to suing the credit bureaus to try to dissuade them from filing more litigation in the future.  They no longer file such frivilous motions in cases where I am involved, probably because they realize that I'm too stubborn (or stupid) to run off.  Unfortunately, the CRAs' motion in this case was a waste of the Court's resources, even though it was correctly granted.

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