Law School Case Brief
Dixon v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC - 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61648 (N.D. Ind. May 11, 2015)
Summary judgment is proper if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
In 2001, plaintiff Edward Dixon bought a house, and in 2005, he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. His mortgage was included in the discharged debts; however, to stave off repossession of his home, Dixon continued to make payments to the mortgage company. Although he continued to make the mortgage payment, Dixon did not “reaffirm” the mortgage debt under 11 U.S.C. §524(c). In 2013, defendant Green Tree servicing LLC, began servicing Dixon’s mortgage. Sometime in 2013, Dixon had difficulty getting favorable interest rates on some loans. This prompted him to obtain his credit report, which showed that his account with Green Tree was "Discharged through Bankruptcy Chapter 7 / Never late" with a "$0" balance and a last date of payment of May 2006. The report failed to indicate that Dixon had continued to make his payments from 2006 through 2013. Consequently, Dixon filed a lawsuit against Green Tree in federal district court, claiming that Green Tree’s reporting was inaccurate, misleading, and/or incomplete under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). Green filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Dixon had no actual damages, and without actual damages, he could not prove a willful violation of the FCRA. Moreover, Green Tree argued that even if Dixon could pursue his claim for a willful violation of the FCRA, there was no evidence to support it.
Was Green Tree entitled to summary judgment?
The court granted Green Tree's motion for summary judgment. The court noted that summary judgment was proper if the movant showed that there was no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Moreover, the court observed, failure to prove an essential element of a plaintiff’s case necessitated summary judgment in favor of the defendant because in such a situation, there could be no genuine issue as to any material fact, since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving part’s case necessarily rendered all other facts immaterial. The court ruled that Dixon failed to provide any evidence of actual damages, and in any event, any harm he did suffer occurred prior to his filing a dispute with the credit bureaus. In addition, the Court held that under the existing law, it was unclear whether failing to report a consumer’s post-discharge payments violated the FCRA. There was no evidence that Green Tree knew it violated the FCRA—if such reporting was even a violation—or that it acted in reckless disregard as to whether it was violating the FCRA.
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