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September 21, 2009

New FCRA case - McDonald v. Equifax

It is quite difficult to lose an FCRA case via summary judgment.  As long as you can show an inaccuracy appeared on your credit report, you should be able to survive summary judgment since, once an inaccuracy is shown, the question becomes whether or not the credit bureau's procedures and/or actions were reasonable, which is almost always a jury question.  Thus, as long as there is an inaccuracy, losing via summary judgment is difficult to do.  But this pro se plaintiff was able to lose via summary judgment not once but three times.  This is yet another example of why consumers need to hire attorneys experienced in FCRA litigation to represent them and never, ever, should consumers represent themselves.

In the case styled Michael L. McDonald v. Equifax, Experian and Trans Union pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, McDonald filed claims against all three national credit bureaus for violations of unspecified sections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  While he did not identify the statutes in his Complaint, his case appeared to claim garden variety 1681e(b) claims for failing to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the credit reports regarding McDonald and 1681i for failing to conduct reasonable investigations of the disputed information.

According to the opinion penned by U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle, McDonald learned of various inaccuracies on his Equifax credit report when he was denied a loan.  He then obtained copies of his credit reports from Experian and Trans Union and learned of additional errors appearing on his credit reports published by those companies.  He lodged several disputes regarding the inaccurate credit information with all three credit bureaus.  However, the CRAs failed to correct the errors.  McDonald then filed litigation against Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

Apparently, McDonald failed to correctly serve Experian with the Complaint.  The opinion does not indicate how McDonald messed up service of process, as Experian had already been dismissed from the case prior to the motions before the Court.  Trans Union and Equifax both filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that McDonald failed to present any evidence of any inaccuracies on his credit report.

All McDonald had to do was come up with some type of sworn testimony or documentation that his credit reports contained inaccuracies.  It could have been as simple as an affidavit from McDonald himself swearing that the reports contained inaccurate information.  Or he could have produced some type of documentation that demonstrated the inaccurate nature of the information.  Any competent attorney could have easily beaten the credit bureaus' motion for summary judgment in this case.  However, lawyerless McDonald failed to provide any documentation or any sworn testimony.  As a result, Judge Boyle was correct in dismissing McDonald's claims.

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