521 F.2d 1079 (4th Cir. 1975), 74-2358, Hoke v. Retail Credit Corp.

Docket Nº:74-2358.
Citation:521 F.2d 1079
Party Name:Harold Reed HOKE, M.D., Appellant, v. RETAIL CREDIT CORPORATION et al., Appellees.
Case Date:August 19, 1975
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 1079

521 F.2d 1079 (4th Cir. 1975)

Harold Reed HOKE, M.D., Appellant,

v.

RETAIL CREDIT CORPORATION et al., Appellees.

No. 74-2358.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

August 19, 1975

Argued June 12, 1975.

Page 1080

Grover Prevatte Hopkins, Tarboro, N. C., for appellant.

Michael E. Weddington, Raleigh, N. C. (James D. Blount, Jr., Smith, Anderson, Blount & Mitchell, Raleigh, N. C., on brief), for appellees.

Before HAYNSWORTH, WINTER and CRAVEN, Circuit Judges.

WINTER, Circuit Judge:

Suing under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1671 Et seq., 1 Dr. Harold Reed Hoke sought damages from Retail Credit Corporation (Retail Credit) and two of its employees 2 for injuries allegedly sustained from inaccurate information contained in a personal report issued by Retail Credit to the Texas Board of Medical Examiners.

Page 1081

The Board had requested the report to aid in its assessment of Dr. Hoke's application for a license to practice medicine in Texas. The district court rendered summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding that the plaintiffs could not prevail as a matter of law because the report was not a "consumer report" within the meaning of FCRA. 3 Since, in our view, the report was a "consumer report" covered by FCRA we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

The case turns on FCRA's definition of "consumer report." In pertinent part, § 1681a(d) provides:

(d) The term "consumer report" means any written, oral, or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on a consumer's credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer's eligibility for (1) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, or (2) employment purposes, or (3) other purposes authorized under section 1681b of this title. . . . 4

A consumer report, therefore, is virtually any information communicated by a "consumer reporting agency" for any one of the purposes enumerated in 1681a and 1681b, including but not limited to, "employment purposes" (§ 1681a(d) and § 1681b(3)(B)) and eligibility for a government license or benefit (§ 1681b(3)(D)). Since there can be no question but that Retail Credit is a consumer reporting agency within the terms of the FCRA, 5 we must decide whether the allegedly inaccurate information was furnished by Retail Credit for one or more of the purposes specified in §§ 1681a and 1681b.

II.

We consider first if the furnishing of the report was for "employment purposes" within the meaning of §§ 1681a(d) and 1681b(3)(B). 6

The purpose of the Texas licensing procedure is to assess and certify Dr. Hoke's fitness and eligibility to practice medicine within the state of Texas. Although the terminology customarily used with regard to the employment of persons engaged in ordinary commercial activities is sometimes ill-suited to a description of the practice of a learned profession, in the context of FCRA the practice of medicine necessarily takes the form of some type of "employment."

Page 1082

A physician may accept full or part-time employment as a physician by a hospital, clinic, medical school, or professional association. In those instances he is an employee, albeit a professional one. If he concludes to practice his profession as a single practitioner or as a member of a medical partnership, we still consider him as "employed," either self-employed or employed by the patients who pay him fees for the medical services that he provides. 7 And since the Sine qua non to the practice of medicine in Texas, and elsewhere, is a license to practice medicine, and since the information furnished by Retail Credit related to the question of whether the license would be granted, we have no hesitancy in concluding that the information was furnished for "employment purposes" in the broad generic sense of the words.

The statutory...

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