In Thornton v. Equifax, 2018 WL 5792816 (M.D.Ga. 2018), Judge Land found that the FCRA pre-empted all common-law state law claims. The facts were as follows:
Thornton filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. He received a discharge of his debts on February 7, 2017, including his delinquent accounts with Kinetic. Thornton alleges that although Kinetic received notice of his discharge from the bankruptcy court, Kinetic falsely reported to the credit bureaus that Thornton had delinquent balances and that his accounts had been charged off. Thornton received notice of these reports when he was rejected for a loan in April 2017. He disputed these reports to Equifax, and he believes that Equifax notified Kinetic of the disputes as required by the FCRA. Equifax later responded that it had researched the issue and made some revisions to Thornton’s credit file. Thornton then applied for a car loan and had his Equifax credit report pulled again. He alleges that he was denied the car loan because Kinetic continued to report the false information. After that denial, Thornton again disputed the report through Equifax.
Judge Land found that state common law claims were preempted by the FCRA.
Twenty-six years after the FCRA was originally enacted, Congress enacted the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996, a comprehensive overhaul of the FCRA. As part of that overhaul, Congress added § 1681s-2 to impose specific duties on furnishers of information to consumer reporting agencies. Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-208 § 2413(a)(2), 110 Stat. 3009-447 to 3009-448. Congress also added an enforcement scheme for alleged FCRA violations by furnishers of credit information, with significant limitations on liability and enforcement. Id. § 2413, 110 Stat. 3009-448, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(c)-(d). And Congress added § 1681t(b)(1)(F), which expressly preempts state law “with respect to any subject matter regulated under … section [1681s-2].” Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-110 § 2419, 110 Stat. 3009-452 to 3009-453. In summary, the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996 imposed duties on furnishers of credit information under the FCRA for the first time; created new but limited remedies for violations of those duties; and declared that the states could not regulate any subject matter regulated under § 1681s-2 (which imposed those new duties on furnishers of credit information). In the Court’s view, the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 1996 is a clear and manifest expression of Congress’s intent to regulate the duties of credit information furnishers and to displace state law on this subject. So, § 1681h(e) is implicitly repealed to the extent it conflicts with § 1681t(b)(1)(F). Thornton’s state law claims are therefore preempted under § 1681t(b)(1)(F).