Law School Case Brief
Childress v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc. - 790 F.3d 745 (7th Cir. 2015)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq., provides that "if any case arising or filed under Title 11 [the Bankruptcy Code] is withdrawn by the consumer before a final judgment, the consumer reporting agency shall include in the report that such case or filing was withdrawn upon receipt of documentation certifying such withdrawal."
In 2006, plaintiff Andrea Childress and her husband had filed a petition for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, but later filed a timely motion in the bankruptcy court to dismiss the petition, which the court granted. Defendant Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (Experian), a consumer credit-reporting agency, received copies of judgments in bankruptcy cases from Lexis, which in turn retrieved them from PACER - Public Access to Court Electronic Records, a service that provided online access to federal court and docket information. Experian reported plaintiff’s bankruptcy petition “dismissed,” which was what the judgment terminating the bankruptcy case had caused to be done. In 2009, plaintiff’s lawyer demanded that Experian remove all reference to the bankruptcy because it had been dismissed at her behest. Experian then purged the reference to the bankruptcy from her file, but did so because it would soon be seven years since she had filed her bankruptcy petition and Experian deletes reference to a bankruptcy in a consumer credit report after seven years have elapsed since the petition for bankruptcy was filed. Plaintiff then filed a complaint, seeking damages from Experian, arguing that by failing to report from the outset that the bankruptcy petition had been voluntarily withdrawn, Experian had willfully violated the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Experian without deciding whether to certify a class. Plaintiff Childress sought appellate review.
Did the district court err in granting summary judgment in favor of Experian, the credit reporting agency?
The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Experian because when the plaintiff debtor’s bankruptcy petition was withdrawn no documentation certifying such withdrawal was or had been submitted to Experian pursuant to the Act, 15 U.S.C.S. §§ 1681c(d)(1) and 1681e(b). According to the Court, the Act required only that the procedures adopted by credit-reporting agencies be "reasonable" in relation to the goal of accurate credit reporting. The Court averred that the procedure urged by the plaintiff, i.e., that Experian could monitor all dismissals of bankruptcy petitions and investigate to determine whether they were dismissed at the request of the petitioner, was not reasonable.
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