In Tillman v. Mich. First Credit Union, & Sec. Auto Loans, No. 19-12860, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66146, at *9 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 5, 2021), Judge Lawson granted summary judgment to an automobile lender on a challenge to the consumer report listing payment amounts post-bankruptcy discharge.
The Sixth Circuit recently clarified the showing that must be made to sustain the element of inaccurate reporting: “[T]o state the first element of a claim [of inaccurate reporting under the FCRA], a plaintiff may allege that a CRA reported either ‘patently incorrect’ information about them or information that was ‘misleading in such a way and to such an extent that it [could have been] expected to have an adverse effect [on the consumer.'” Twumasi-Ankrah v. Checkr, Inc., 954 F.3d 938, 942 (6th Cir. 2020) (quoting Dalton v. Capital Associated Indus., Inc., 257 F.3d 409, 415 (4th Cir. 2001)). Here, the plaintiff expressly disclaims any claim of “misleading” reporting and insists that the tradeline was “patently incorrect” for the sole reason that it noted a “monthly payment” amount of $442. The plaintiff insists that the “monthly payment” amount should have been reported as $0, because, after she defaulted on the loan, the defendant elected to charge off the account and accelerate the balance, foregoing any ongoing monthly remittances and instead declaring the entire approximately $8,000 balance due forthwith. When the Court issued its earlier opinion denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss, which principally addressed the sufficiency of the allegations of “inaccuracy,” its ruling was premised on a presumed absence of any further details in the tradeline about the status of the loan. The Court noted that the absence of any such details was assumed because no specimen [*11] of any credit report was attached with the pleadings, and no facts were alleged within the four corners of the complaint suggesting that any further clarifying information was included. The Court noted that many federal courts have found viable claims of inaccurate reporting where the tradeline “listed a balance owed even though the account was closed or charged off,” and where it “failed to report that the account had been discharged or closed.” Franklin v. Trans Union, LLC, No. 19-0888, 2019 WL 6871254, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 8, 2019); see also Pittman, 901 F.3d at 639 (“Reporting that Pittman was delinquent on his loan payments without reporting the [loan modification] implies a much greater degree of financial irresponsibility than was present here. And the existence of and Pittman’s compliance with the terms of the TPP is relevant information about the status of his mortgage loan. Without this information, the Servicers’ reporting was incomplete.”). With its early view of the case constrained to the four corners of the pleadings, the Court found no facts apparent to distinguish this case from those. However, the complete record now presented to the Court reveals the claims in a very different light. Now it is clear that the reporting in this case is indistinguishable from the reports in another equally consistent line of decisions where an “historical” monthly payment amount is listed on a tradeline along with information plainly stating that an account has been “charged off” or “closed,” thus clarifying that there is no ongoing monthly payment obligation. In such cases, the reporting of the “historical” monthly payment repeatedly has been held not to be inaccurate or misleading. Calvin v. Michigan First Credit Union, No. 19-11519, 2020 WL 3972519, at *3 (E.D. Mich. July 14, 2020) (“Credit reports with a non-zero scheduled monthly payment balance and account status of ‘charged off and closed’ have been found not to be materially misleading or factually inaccurate. District courts in this circuit have found scheduled monthly payment fields to be historical and relay only what the monthly payment was before an account was charged off or closed.”); Euringv. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, No. 19-11675, 2020 WL 3833042, at *2 (E.D. Mich. July 8, 2020) (“[T]he reported monthly payments in the present case are not inaccurate because no one reading plaintiff’s credit reports, whether a layperson or prospective creditor, would reasonably believe that plaintiff actually owes or is making such payments. The credit reports plainly indicate that both of plaintiff’s MFCU accounts were closed and charged off in 2015. Therefore, the reported monthly payments can only be understood as the amounts [*13] plaintiff had agreed to pay when the loans were extended.”); see also Taylor v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, No. 20-10462, 2020 WL 3250224, at *2 (E.D. Mich. June 16, 2020) (collecting cases); Rider v. Equifax Info. Servs. LLC, No. 19-13660, 2020 WL 3036337, at *1 (E.D. Mich. June 5, 2020) (“Neither report is plausibly misleading or inaccurate. True, as Rider alleged in her complaint, the July 2018 report states ‘scheduled paym[e]nt amount’ of ‘$151.’ And assuming Rider paid off the account, that is probably misleading. But that statement does not stand alone. On the very same tradeline the following appears: ‘Balance Amount $0,’ ‘Date Closed 06/2015,’ and ‘ADDITIONAL INFORMATION – Closed or Paid Account/Zero Balance.’ Taken all together, who would think Rider was still paying $151 a month to Michigan First?”); Euring v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, No. 19-11675, 2020 WL 1508344, at *5 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 30, 2020) (“Even if the Court applies plaintiff’s definition of accuracy, there is nothing false or materially misleading about the ‘Monthly Payment’ information on plaintiff’s credit reports in light of the other information that appears on those reports.”). The tradeline in this case is replete with details confirming that the “monthly payment” amount is merely historical and does not indicate any ongoing payment obligation, such as notations that the status of the account was “charged off” and “closed,” and the timeline indicating the transition from “current” to “late” to “charged [*14] off,” which also notes that the “latest status” was “charged off,” indicating no present, ongoing monthly payment obligation. The report also indicated, which the plaintiff does not dispute, that the account had a present “balance due” equal to the remaining unpaid principal and interest. Nothing in the tradeline, considering all of the information reported, was in any sense “incorrect” or “misleading,” and no reader of the report could have been confused about the status of the account. In her opposition to the defendant’s motion and in support of her own motion, the plaintiff repeatedly references the guidelines for credit reporting set forth in the “Credit Reporting Resource Guide,” a publication produced by a creditors’ trade association. She contends that this publication establishes the “industry standard” for accurate reporting. But the plaintiff disclaims any reliance on the “best practices” specified by the CRRG to establish the “inaccuracy” element of her claims, instead arguing that the defendant’s failure to review the CRRG during its investigation of her dispute shows that it unreasonably refused to consider all “available information” about her account status. Moreover, [*15] federal courts repeatedly have “reject[ed] [the] argument that [creditors] should report [a] $0 [monthly payment on a ‘charged off’ account] because this is recommended by the Credit Reporting Resource Guide,” holding that “[t]he touchstone of the FCRA is accuracy,” and, where other appropriate clarifying details on account status are included, “the monthly payment amounts [reported are] historically accurate.” Euring, 2020 WL 3833042, at *2. The plaintiff cannot make the required preliminary showing of inaccurate reporting, and both her negligent and willful claims under the FCRA therefore fail as a matter of law. The Court will grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. For the same reasons, summary judgment in plaintiff’s favor is precluded because the undisputed record cannot sustain the required showing on the threshold element of inaccuracy.