Greenwood v. Trans Union LLC

Decision Date10 August 2021
Docket NumberC19-3039-LTS
PartiesTHOMAS E. GREENWOOD, Plaintiff, v. TRANS UNION, LLC, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa

Leonard T. Strand, Chief Judge.


This matter is before me on a motion (Doc. 33) for summary judgment filed by defendant Trans Union, LLC (Trans Union). Plaintiff Thomas E. Greenwood has filed a response (Doc. 42) and Trans Union has filed a reply (Doc. 47). Oral argument is not necessary. See Local Rule 7(c).


On August 8, 2019, Greenwood filed a complaint alleging three claims against Trans Union for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. Doc. 1. Greenwood alleges Trans Union willfully (or, alternatively, negligently) violated (1) several subsections of § 1681g by failing to include certain information in providing Greenwood his consumer file; (2) § 1681e(b) by incorporating unreliable credit scores into his credit report while omitting certain information from the report; and (3) § 1681i by failing to properly investigate these omissions after Greenwood disputed them. Id. at 10-12. Trans Union filed an answer (Doc. 5) on September 6, 2019, and now seeks entry of summary judgment in its favor.


The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

Trans Union is a consumer reporting agency (CRA) that retains credit information about consumers, including credit scores calculated by Fair Isaac Corporation (Fair Isaac) using a proprietary method. Doc. 47-1 at 1; Doc. 42-1 at 2.

In or around November 2000, Greenwood opened a credit card account with Discover Financial Services (Discover). Doc. 42-1 at 1. In or around November 2013, Discover began participating in Fair Isaac's Open Access Program. Id. at 1-2. Through this program, Discover shares Greenwood's Fair Isaac (or FICO) credit score with him monthly. Id. at 2. Discover obtains the score from Trans Union. Id. Greenwood contractually authorized Discover to so obtain his score. Id. at 3.

When Discover requests the score, Trans Union classifies Discover's request as a “soft inquiry” or “account review.” Id. at 3-4. If an entity makes multiple “soft inquiries” or “account reviews, ” it is Trans Union's policy to disclose only the most recent inquiry to consumers except when responding to consumers in a handful of states. Doc. 47-1 at 9; Doc. 42-4 at 14. Trans Union had, at one time, disclosed all such inquiries to all consumers, regardless of residence. Doc. 42-4 at 15.

On or about May 14, 2018, Greenwood contacted Trans Union. Doc. 42-1 at 4. Greenwood alleges he requested a copy of his credit report. Id. Trans Union alleges he requested a copy of his consumer disclosure. Id. The document Greenwood received in response is entitled “TransUnion Personal Credit Report” and identifies, among other things, various inquiries into Greenwood's credit information, including one from Discover. Id. at 4-5; Doc. 47-1 at 1. On or about June 18, 2018, Greenwood sent a letter to Trans Union disputing the document's contents. Doc. 42-1 at 5. He specifically disputed the fact that the document reflects only one inquiry made by Discover, alleging that Discover inquires monthly and that the document should reflect all of those inquiries. Id. He requested that Trans Union update the “credit report.” Id. Trans Union sent Greenwood a letter on or about June 27, 2018, explaining the document's contents. Id. at 6. Greenwood did not respond to Trans Union's letter. Doc. 42-1 at 6.

On or about July 21, 2019, Greenwood again contacted Trans Union. Id. The parties again dispute whether he requested his credit report or a consumer disclosure. Id. The document Greenwood received lists one inquiry from Discover dated July 17, 2019. Id. Greenwood then commenced this action.


Any party may move for summary judgment regarding all or any part of the claims asserted in a case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus, “the substantive law will identify which facts are material.” Id. Facts that are “critical” under the substantive law are material, while facts that are “irrelevant or unnecessary” are not. Id.

An issue of material fact is genuine if it has a real basis in the record, Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395 (8th Cir. 1992) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)), or when ‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party' on the question.” Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Evidence that only provides “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, or evidence that is “merely colorable” or “not significantly probative, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50, does not make an issue of material fact genuine.

As such, a genuine issue of material fact requires “sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute” so as to “require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. The party moving for entry of summary judgment bears “the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which show a lack of a genuine issue.” Hartnagel, 953 F.2d at 395 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and by depositions, affidavits, or otherwise, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Mosley v. City of Northwoods, 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005). The nonmovant must show an alleged issue of fact is genuine and material as it relates to the substantive law. If a party fails to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of a claim or defense with respect to which that party has the burden of proof, then the opposing party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

In determining if a genuine issue of material fact is present, I must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88. Further, I must give the nonmoving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the facts. Id. However, “because we view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, we do not weigh the evidence or attempt to determine the credibility of the witnesses.” Kammueller v. Loomis, Fargo & Co., 383 F.3d 779, 784 (8th Cir. 2004). Instead, “the court's function is to determine whether a dispute about a material fact is genuine.” Quick v. Donaldson Co., Inc., 90 F.3d 1372, 1377 (8th Cir. 1996).


Trans Union argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on all claims because the conduct Greenwood alleges does not violate the FCRA as matters of law. Alternatively, Trans Union argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because (1) Greenwood has failed to produce sufficient evidence indicating it willfully violated the FCRA; and (2) Greenwood failed to produce sufficient evidence of the emotional distress constituting his actual injury, thus foreclosing his claim that Trans Union negligently violated the FCRA. I will address the parties' arguments claim by claim.

A. Claim 1 - 15 U.S.C. § 1681g

Greenwood's complaint (Doc. 1) and response (Doc. 42) to Trans Union's motion for summary judgment identify three specific subsections of § 1681g(a) that Trans Union allegedly violated in disclosing Greenwood's file to him: §§ 1681g(a)(1), 1681g(a)(3) and 1681g(a)(5).[1]

1. Section 1681g(a)(1)

Section 1681g(a)(1) provides, in relevant part: “Every consumer reporting agency shall, upon request, . . . clearly and accurately disclose to the consumer . . . [a]ll information in the consumer's file at the time of the request . . . .”

a. The parties' arguments

Greenwood alleges Trans Union violated § 1681g(a)(1) by failing to disclose all of Discover's inquiries in responding to his requests. Doc. 1 at 10. Trans Union argues that it has complied with this section because its records of inquiries Discover made are not a part of Greenwood's file. Doc. 33-1 at 8. According to Trans Union, only information that has been furnished or could be furnished in a consumer report fall within the FCRA's definition of “file.” Id. Discover's inquiries would not be and have not been so furnished. Id. Therefore, Trans Union was under no obligation to produce them in responding to Greenwood's requests. Id. at 9. Greenwood disagrees that a consumer's file is limited to the contents of a consumer's report, responding that Trans Union's argument relies on non-binding authority and ignores the FCRA's text and purpose. Doc. 42 at 10-11.

b. Analysis

The parties center their dispute on what a consumer's file entails. Courts are split on this question. Several courts agree with Trans Union's position that Greenwood's file includes only information “that might be furnished, or has been furnished, in a consumer report on” Greenwood. Foskaris v. Experian Info. Sols Inc., 808 Fed.Appx. 436, 439 (9th Cir. 2020) (quoting Shaw v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., 891 F.3d 749, 759 (9th Cir. 2018)); Gillespie v....

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