In Ellis v. Warehouse Home Furnishings Distribs., Judge Catherine M. Salinas, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, granted summary judgment for Warehouse Home Furnishings Distributors, Inc., f/k/a Farmers Furniture Company (“Farmers”), holding that Ellis failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether “the Farmers tradeline on [Ellis’s] credit reports contained any inaccurate or incomplete information” or whether Ellis suffered damages regarding Ellis’s Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) claim.
In 2013, Ellis obligated herself to making two hundred and fifteen-dollar monthly payments for twenty-four months under a Retail Installment Contract/Security Agreement with Farmers. Subsequently, Ellis obtained disability insurance that paid off Ellis’s loan by 2015. In 2018, two national credit reporting agencies prepared credit reports regarding Ellis’s Farmers tradeline listing the two hundred and fifteen-dollar monthly payment amounts, while also reflecting the balance on the account as zero dollars.
In response, Ellis contacted one of the credit reporting agencies to dispute the reporting of “positive monthly payment amounts” despite the account closure. After a subsequent credit report on Ellis’s Farmers tradeline indicated the monthly payment amount again, Ellis filed suit – alleging that Farmers had “negligent[ly] and willful[ly] violat[ed] the [FCRA]” by furnishing inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies regarding Ellis’s tradeline and failing to “conduct a reasonable investigation of [Ellis’s] dispute.” Ellis contended that the reflection of the two hundred and fifteen-dollar monthly payment amount “show[ed] a[n] [inaccurate] present monthly payment obligation,” while Farmers contended it was merely an accurate “historical reference” to the contract payment terms.
Under the FCRA, a furnisher who receives notice of a consumer dispute from a consumer reporting agency (“CRA”) must “conduct an investigation,” “review all relevant information provided by the [CRA],” “report the results of the investigation to the [CRA],” “report those results to all other [CRAs] to which the person furnished the information . . . if the investigation finds that the information is incomplete and inaccurate,” and “modify, delete, or permanently block the reporting of any information found to be inaccurate or incomplete.” Moreover, plaintiffs may recover “any actual damages [they] sustain as a result of a negligent violation” of the statute.
Here, the Court emphasized that “[t]he mere inclusion of information about previous payment terms neither causes confusion nor creates an inaccuracy so as to maintain a claim under the FCRA.” It found that Ellis failed to provide “even a shred of evidence” of damages sustained and characterized Ellis’s argument as “baseless.” It reasoned that, “viewed in the context of the entire report,” it was clear that the balance of the tradeline was zero and the account had been closed since 2015. Therefore, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Farmers.