Nadeau v. Experian Info. Sols.

Decision Date16 December 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 20-cv-1841(PJS/TNL)
PartiesMaggie Nadeau, Plaintiff, v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota

Jenna Dakroub, Price Law Group, APC, 8245 North 85th Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85258 (for Plaintiff); and

Eric A. Nicholson, Jones Day - Detroit, 150 West Jefferson Avenue Suite 2100, Detroit, MI 48226; and Gregory John Myers, Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP, 100 Washington Avenue South Suite 2200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for Defendant).


This matter is before the Court, United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung, on Plaintiff Maggie Nadeau's Rule 12(f) Motion to Strike Defendant's Affirmative Defenses and Deem Insufficient Answers Admitted (ECF No. 19). A hearing was held on December 1, 2020. (ECF No. 20.) Jenna Dakroub appeared on behalf of Plaintiff; Eric A. Nicholson and Gregory John Myers appeared on behalf of Defendant.


In August 2020, Plaintiff filed a one-count Complaint alleging Defendant violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., by reporting inaccurate information on her credit report and failing to conduct a reasonable investigation after receiving a notice of dispute. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) On October 5, 2020, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Am. Compl., ECF No. 13), again alleging that Defendant violated the FCRA. Defendant filed its Answer to the Amended Complaint on October 19, 2020. (Answer, ECF No. 14.) In addition to providing responses to Plaintiff's allegations, Defendant asserted ten affirmative defenses. (Id.) In the present motion, Plaintiff challenges five of Defendant's responses to the Amended Complaint and also asks the Court to strike six of Defendant's affirmative defenses. (Pl.'s Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 19; see generally Pl.'s Memo. of Law in Support of Mot. to Strike ("Pl.'s Memo."), ECF No. 21.) Defendant opposes the motion.


The Court begins with Plaintiff's challenges to Defendant's responses to her Amended Complaint. It will then turn to Plaintiff's challenges to Defendant's affirmative defenses.

A. Defendant's Responses to Allegations in the Amended Complaint

Plaintiff argues that Defendant's responses to paragraphs 12, 14, 40, 41, and 44 of her Amended Complaint do not sufficiently comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b). She argues this will force her to take "exhaustive" additional steps in discovery "regarding what should otherwise be undisputed matters." (Pl.'s Memo. at 7.) Defendant counters that its responses were made in good faith and that it has met its pleading obligations under the Federal Rules. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Strike ("Def.'s Resp.") at 2-3, ECF No. 25.)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b) lays out how parties must respond to factsalleged in a complaint. Parties are required to "admit or deny the allegations asserted against it by an opposing party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(1)(B).

1. Paragraphs 12 and 14

Plaintiff first challenges the responses to paragraphs 12 and 14 of her Amended Complaint, which detail information about her bankruptcy proceedings. She argues these answers do not sufficiently comply with Rule 8(b)(5). These paragraphs contain the following information:

12. On or about June 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed for a voluntary bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of Title 11 of the Bankruptcy code, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota (St Paul), petition number 19-32048.
. . .
14. Plaintiff received a discharge in bankruptcy court on or about September 30, 2019.

(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 14.)

In response to both paragraphs, Defendant stated it was "without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations contained therein and on that basis denies, generally and specifically, all such allegations." (Answer ¶¶ 12, 14.)

Plaintiff argues that these factual allegations are either known to Defendant, or, in the alternative, "can be easily brought within [Defendant's] knowledge with a cursory review of their own records." (Pl.'s Memo. at 5-6.) She notes that Defendant reported her bankruptcy on the credit report it compiled and published, and that it receives daily updates from LexisNexis on public records relating to bankruptcy filings. (Id. at 6.) Thus, becauseDefendant "sought out and reported" her bankruptcy on its report, it cannot now "feign ignorance" as to those proceedings. (Id.) Plaintiff asks this Court to deem paragraphs 12 and 14 of Defendant's Answer admitted. (Id. at 9.)

Defendant counters that Plaintiff's argument fails because it conflates the contents of the credit report (which it created and has direct knowledge of) with the underlying facts of the bankruptcy matter (which LexisNexis, a third party, provides to Defendant). (Def.'s Resp. at 6.) It argues that although it has knowledge of the information provided to it by LexisNexis and the information on the Experian credit report "it did not, at the time of its response, have [P]laintiff's bankruptcy docket or underlying filings." (Id. at 7.) It further argues that deeming these answers admitted is an extreme remedy and Plaintiff has not provided adequate legal support for the Court to order that particular remedy. (Id.) Lastly, because Plaintiff has access to her own bankruptcy records, and because the facts of her bankruptcy are a matter of public record subject to judicial notice, Defendant argues Plaintiff would not need to undertake exhaustive additional efforts in the discovery process due to Defendant's responses to paragraphs 12 and 14 of the Amended Complaint. (Id.)

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, if a party "lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief about the truth of an allegation," they must state so in their answer. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(5). This statement "has the effect of a denial." Id. In support of her argument, Plaintiff extensively cites Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London Subscribing to Certificate No. IPSI 12559 v. SSDD, LLC, No. 4:13-CV-193 CAS, 2013 WL 6801832 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 23, 2013). (See generally Pl.'s Memo. at 3-9.) This case is not entirely analogous to the current matter. For example, Defendant is correct thatthe plaintiffs' motion in that case did not ask for the same remedy Plaintiff seeks in this case—to have the answers deemed admitted. (See Def.'s Resp. at 7 (citing Certain Underwriters, 2013 WL 6801832, at *1).) Nor did the court in Certain Underwriters deem any answers admitted. See Certain Underwriters, 2013 WL 6801832, at *13 (ordering certain paragraphs of the defendant's answer stricken and ordering the defendant to replead paragraphs that did not comply with the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b)). The case's summary of the requirements of Rule 8, however, is instructive. See id. at *3-4 (citing 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1262 (3d ed. 2010)). Wright & Miller's Federal Practice and Procedure is also instructive on the issue of pleading insufficient knowledge or information under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b)(5):

Normally, a party may not assert a lack of knowledge or information if the necessary facts or data involved are within his knowledge or easily brought within his knowledge, a matter of general knowledge in the community, or a matter of public record. A denial of knowledge or information in this context casts doubt on the good faith of the pleader. Furthermore, a federal court often will impute knowledge of certain matters to a party, such as charging a corporation with the knowledge of the acts of its agents, or will impose a reasonable burden of investigation upon the pleader. However, if knowledge of a fact cannot be ascertained within the time the party is given to answer with a modest expenditure of effort, a denial of knowledge or information is appropriate; the pleader is not compelled to make an exhaustive or burdensome search in order to determine the truth or falsity of his opponents allegations.

Wright & Miller, supra, at § 1262; see also Certain Underwriters, 2013 WL 6801832, at *3-4 (quoting the same).

In this instance, paragraphs 12 and 14 of the Amended Complaint allege basic facts about Plaintiff's bankruptcy proceedings. Paragraph 12 contains Plaintiff's bankruptcy petition number, which is also listed in Plaintiff's Experian credit report. (Compare Am. Compl. ¶ 12 with Pl.'s Experian Credit Report at 1, ECF No. 26-1.) Though Defendant argues that LexisNexis provides that information for its credit reports, this information is a matter of the public record and Defendant would not be required to make an exhaustive or burdensome search in order to determine the validity of Plaintiff's allegations in paragraphs 12 and 14. Therefore, the Court shall grant Plaintiff's motion as it relates to Defendant's responses to paragraphs 12 and 14. It will, however, do so only to the extent that it deems Defendant's Answer insufficient. Defendant shall replead those paragraphs in a manner that complies with Rule 8(b).

2. Paragraphs 40, 41, and 44

Plaintiff also challenges Defendant's denials of paragraphs 40, 41, and 44, on the basis that they do not comply with Rule 8(b)(2). These paragraphs in the Amended Complaint state:

40. Upon reviewing her Experian report, Plaintiff discovered that Experian was reporting her Auto Loan as having negative account history from June 2019, the month Plaintiff filed for bankruptcy, through March of 2020.
41. Experian did not report account history from May 2020 through August 2020.
. . .
44. Plaintiff also discovered that after the dispute, Experian updated the Status of the Credit Card to report as "Now paying/was a charge-off", and changed the account history to"Ok" in August 2020, despite Plaintiff not making any payments on this account since filing for bankruptcy.

(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 40-41, 44.)

Plaintiff argues that these denials contradict Defendant's own reporting of Plaintiff's...

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