Gagnon v. Jpmorgan Chase Bank, N.A.

Decision Date03 January 2017
Docket NumberNo. 15–cv–9526,15–cv–9526
Parties Charles GAGNON, Plaintiff, v. JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., Seterus, Inc., Pierce & Associates, P.C., Equifax Information Services LLC, and Experian Information Solutions, Inc., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Ahmad Tayseer Sulaiman, Daniel John McGarry, Mohammed Omar Badwan, Sulaiman Law Group, Ltd., Majdi Y. Hijazin, Law Offices of Majdi Y. Hijazin, Ltd., Oak Brook, IL, for Plaintiff.

Andrew Douglas Lemar, Burke Warren Mackay & Serritella, P.C., Charles J. Ochab, Ralph T. Wutscher, Gregg M. Barbakoff, Maurice Wutscher LLP, David M. Schultz, Justin M. Penn, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Christopher Adam Hall, Kevin Crowley Knight, Michael Alan Zuckerman, Jones Day, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

Robert M. Dow, Jr., United States District Judge

Plaintiff Charles Gagnon ("Plaintiff") brings his amended complaint [63] against Defendants JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. ("Chase"), Seterus, Inc. ("Seterus"), Pierce & Associates, P.C. ("Pierce"), Equifax Information Services LLC ("Equifax"), and Experian Information Solutions, Inc. ("Experian") (collectively, "Defendants") for alleged violations of (1) the Fair Credit Report Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. ("FCRA"); (2) the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. ("FDCPA"); (3) the bankruptcy discharge injunction pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §§ 524 and 105 ; (4) the bankruptcy automatic stay pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 362(k)(1) ; and (5) the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. ("ICFA"). Before the Court are the motions of Defendants Seterus [72], Experian [74], Pierce [82], and Chase [83] to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction.

For the reasons explained below, the motions are granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, the Court grants Seterus' motion [72] to dismiss Counts IX and XIII, for violation of the discharge injunction and the ICFA, respectively, and grants in part Seterus' motion to dismiss Count II, for violation of FDCPA §§ 1692e(2), (8) & (10), and 1692f(1). The Court grants Experian's motion [74] to dismiss Count XI, for violation of FCRA § 1681e(b). The Court grants Pierce's motion [82] to dismiss Count VI, for violation of the discharge injunction, and part of Count I, for violation of FDCPA § 1692c(a)(2). The Court grants Chase's motion [83] to dismiss Counts VII, VIII, and XII, for violation of the discharge injunction, the automatic stay, and the ICFA, respectively. The motions to dismiss are denied in all other respects and all other claims remain in the case. Finally, Seterus' request for an extension of time to file an answer is granted, see [72]; Seterus shall have until January 24, 2017 to file its answer to Count V of Plaintiff's amended complaint. This case is set for further status hearing on January 26, 2017 at 9:00 a.m.

I. Background1

At all times relevant to this complaint, Plaintiff owned and resided at a residential property located in Lockport, Illinois (the "Property"). Equifax and Experian are consumer reporting agencies that compile and maintain files on consumers on a nationwide basis. Chase and Seterus are mortgage servicers authorized to do business in Illinois. Chase and Seterus both furnish information to the major credit reporting agencies ("CRAs"), which include Equifax and Experian. Pierce is a law firm located in Chicago, Illinois and a debt collector that regularly uses the mail and/or telephones to collect delinquent consumer accounts.

In May 2011, Plaintiff executed a mortgage ("Mortgage Loan") on the Property in favor of Chase. On July 31, 2013, Plaintiff filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Case No. 13–30722). Schedule D of Plaintiff's bankruptcy petition lists the Mortgage Loan as a secured debt in the amount of $188,638.00. Equifax and Experian are listed on Schedule F of Plaintiff's bankruptcy petition and received notice of the bankruptcy.

Plaintiff filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan along with his bankruptcy petition. The plan proposed to treat Chase's claim as follows: "Debtor is surrendering the [Property] to [Chase] and GreenTree Servicing, LLC in full satisfaction of their claims." [63] at 4. Chase was listed as a creditor of Plaintiff and therefore was served with notice of the bankruptcy petition and the Chapter 13 plan.

On October 11, 2013, the Bankruptcy Court confirmed Plaintiff's Chapter 13 plan.

On June 2, 2014, Chase filed a motion for relief from the automatic stay and co-debtor stay that had previously been entered in Plaintiff's bankruptcy case. Chase's motion acknowledged Plaintiff's intent to surrender the Property. On June 20, 2014, the Bankruptcy Court granted Chase relief from the automatic stay. Chase then attempted to collect the subject loan. In particular, on July 16, 2014, Chase sent Plaintiff a mortgage loan statement stating that Plaintiff had defaulted on the Mortgage Loan and owed a reinstatement amount of $19,809.05. See [63–7] (Plaintiff's Ex. G); [84–2] (Chase's Ex. 2 at 3). The statement showed that a total payment of $19,795.05 was due August 1, 2014 and included a payment coupon. [84–2] at 1. It also stated in one place that "[t]his communication is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose," but in another place that "[i]f you or your account is subject to pending bankruptcy proceedings, or if you received a bankruptcy discharge, this statement is for informational purposes only and is not an attempt to collect a debt." Id. at 2.

On August 4, 2014, the Bankruptcy Court entered on order discharging all of Plaintiff's dischargeable debts, including the Mortgage Loan. The order stated, in part: "The discharge prohibits any attempt to collect from the debtor a debt that has been discharged. For example, a creditor is not permitted to contact a debtor by mail, phone, or otherwise, to file or continue a lawsuit, to attach wages or other property, or to take any other action to collect a discharged debt from the debtor." [63] at 6.

On August 14, 2014, Chase sent Plaintiff a notice informing him that servicing rights for the Mortgage Loan would be transferred to Seterus effective September 1, 2014. The notice instructed Plaintiff to "send your mortgage payments to your new servicer." [63] at 6. At the time that Chase transferred its servicing rights to the Mortgage Loan, it had actual knowledge that the Mortgage Loan had been discharged in bankruptcy.

On September 15, 2014, Seterus sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that he was in default on the Mortgage Loan in the amount of $15,002.71 and that payment was due October 20, 2014. On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff's bankruptcy case closed. On October 3, 2014, Seterus sent Plaintiff an escrow account statement stating that his new monthly payment on the Mortgage Loan was $1,462.50. On January 28, 2015, Seterus sent Plaintiff an account statement showing a principal balance of $188,636.33 remaining on the Mortgage Loan. On January 29, 2015, Pierce sent Plaintiff a notice demanding payment of the Mortgage Loan in the total amount of $208,519.20. (These four communications are referred to by the parties and later in this opinion as Seterus' "dunning letters.")

At some point after receiving his discharge in bankruptcy, Plaintiff pulled his credit reports and discovered that the CRAs, including Equifax and Experian, were inaccurately reporting the status of the Mortgage Loan. On July 15, 2015, due to the inaccuracy of a credit report from Trans Union, Plaintiff was denied a loan from BMO Harris ("Harris"), for which Plaintiff had applied to help cover the costs of his daughter's college tuition.

On August 4, 2015, Plaintiff sent credit dispute letters to Equifax and Experian and requested that his credit file be updated to reflect the zero balance and discharged status of all accounts discharged in his bankruptcy. Plaintiff attached to his letters copies of his bankruptcy schedules, confirmed Chapter 13 plan, and discharge order.

Experian responded to Plaintiff's credit dispute letter on August 17, 2015. Experian stated that it had updated the Chase and Seterus trade lines to reflect the bankruptcy. However, the account history for the Seterus account was still reporting an account balance of $188,636 and a scheduled payment amount of $988 for April through June 2015. Experian also failed to report that the Seterus trade line was disputed.

Equifax (which is the only Defendant that has not filed a motion to dismiss) responded to Plaintiff's credit dispute letter on August 23, 2015. While Equifax updated its credit file in part, it did not correct the Chase or Seterus trade lines for the Mortgage Loan. The Chase trade line still reported a scheduled payment amount of $1,465 per month and did not indicate that the Mortgage Loan had been discharged in bankruptcy. The Seterus trade line still reported a scheduled payment amount of $988 per month and reported that the Mortgage Loan was over 120 days past due. Equifax's credit file also failed to report that the Chase and Seterus trade lines were disputed.

On October 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit. The governing first amended complaint [63] contains thirteen counts, which are discussed in the relevant sections of the Court's analysis below.

II. Legal Standard

The four moving Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's amended complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). "For purposes of a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construes all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Mutter , 17 F.Supp.3d at 756. A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges federal subject matter jurisdiction. In ruling on the motion, the district court may look beyond the...

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