In Riser v. Cent. Portfolio Control, Inc., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109545, Case No. 3:21-cv-05238-LK (W.D. Wash. June 21, 2022), Judge King dismissed an FCRA claim against a consumer reporting agency over the propriety of reporting a medical debt which the Plaintiff claimed that she did not owe because she was covered by Washington’s Medicaid plan.
Relying on the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Carvalho, Trans Union argues that Riser fails to state a claim against it because she fails to make a prima facie case that its reporting was inaccurate, or in the alternative, even if the reporting was inaccurate, Riser’s dispute turns on the legal validity of the debt, and the FCRA does not require Trans Union to resolve such a dispute. Dkt. No. 34-1 at 5-10. In Carvalho, the plaintiff alleged that CRAs violated the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act (a law that is substantially based on the FCRA) by reporting a medical bill that she had not paid. 629 F.3d at 881-83. Although the debt was technically accurate, the plaintiff contended that it was legally invalid because her insurer was obligated to pay it, and her medical provider had not taken the proper steps to bill her insurer. Id. at 882-83, 891. The crux of the plaintiff’s argument, therefore, was not that the information reported was inaccurate, but rather that it was “misleading because she was not legally obligated to pay [the medical provider] until [it] had properly billed her insurer.” Id. at 891. The Ninth Circuit observed that “[t]he fundamental flaw in [the plaintiff’s] conception of the reinvestigation duty is that credit reporting agencies are not tribunals”; “[t]hey simply collect and report information furnished by others,” and “are ill equipped to adjudicate contract disputes.” Id. Because CRAs are not required as part of their reinvestigation duties to provide a legal opinion on the merits, “reinvestigation claims are not the proper vehicle for collaterally attacking the legal validity of consumer debts.” Id. at 892. The Ninth Circuit accordingly held that the plaintiff had failed to establish that the CRAs inaccurately reported her debt. Id. Riser’s claim meets the same fate here. Like the plaintiff in Carvalho, Riser “does not contend that the [account] does not pertain to her, that the amount past due is too high or low, or that any of the listed dates are wrong.” Id. at 891.1 Instead, as in Carvalho, Riser argues that she was not legally obligated to pay the debt: “Medicaid laws and Washington’s Charity Care Act prevented the provider from ever holding Plaintiff personally liable on the account.” Dkt. No. 38 at 13; see also id. at 12 (“It is black-letter law that collection agencies cannot collect Medicaid accounts, even if Medicaid fails to pay.” (citing 42 C.F.R. § 447.15; Wash. Admin. Code § 182-502-0160(3))). But Trans Union was not obligated to “undertak[e] a searching inquiry into the consumer’s [*10] legal defenses to payment.” Carvalho, 629 F.3d at 891. “Indeed, determining whether the consumer has a valid defense is a question for a court to resolve in a suit against the creditor, not a job imposed upon consumer reporting agencies by the FCRA.” Id. at 892 (cleaned up). . . .Because Riser has failed to establish an element of a prima facie reinvestigation claim—inaccuracy—her complaint fails to state a claim against Trans Union under FCRA Sections 1681e(b) and 1681(i).