In Pongsai v. Am. Express Co., No. SA CV 19-1628-DOC (JDEx), 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 198104 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2020), Judge Carter denied MSJ to American Express due to a question of fact.
Defendant argues that “only notice from a [consumer reporting agency] can trigger a furnisher’s duty to investigation” under the FCRA. Defendant’s Motion at 12. It contends that direct complaints do not trigger the duty. Id. Defendant claims that “the only information provided to [it] by the CRAs was that the disputed account was ‘not hers/his’ or ‘belongs to another individual with the same/similar name.” Id. at 16. Because Defendant’s investigation revealed that certain identifying information on the disputed account matched the information provided to it in the disputes, Defendant concludes that it acted reasonably in verifying that Plaintiff was the account owner. Defendant cites Ninth Circuit law stating that “[a]n investigation is not necessarily unreasonable because it results in a substantive conclusion unfavorable to the consumer, even if that conclusion turns out to be inaccurate.” Gorman, 584 F.3d at 1161. Plaintiff argues that Defendant’s investigation “amounts to rubber stamping” because it is “compares the disputed credit reporting information to the source of that information, [Defendant’s] internal records, to ensure that it matches.” Plaintiff’s Motion at 17. Plaintiff further contends that this process “makes it impossible for consumers to correct inaccurate information on their credit reports through the process outlined by the FCRA.” Id. at 20. Such a system of investigation, Plaintiff argues, should be found unreasonable as a matter of law. Id. Looking at all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the investigation that American Express conducted in response to Plaintiff’s dispute about the ownership of the defaulted credit account was reasonable. Here, both parties disagree as to whether a reasonable investigation took place. See Plaintiff’s Motion at 13-16; Defendant’s Motion at 14-16. “[S]ummary judgment is generally an inappropriate way to decide questions of reasonableness because ‘the jury’s unique competence in applying the “reasonable man” standard is thought ordinarily to preclude summary judgment.'” Gorman, 584 F.3d at 1157 (quoting In re Software Toolworks Inc., 50 F.3d 615, 621 (9th Cir. 1994)). On the one hand, a jury could side with Defendant and find that it fulfilled its duty to reasonably investigate when it confirmed that the disputed account did in fact belong to an individual with Plaintiff’s name. On the other hand, a jury may agree with Plaintiff that Defendant had a duty to do more than confirm ownership of the account using its existing internal records. Because there is a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the reasonableness of the American Express’s investigation, this issue is best resolved by a jury, and both parties’ motions are accordingly DENIED.