Williams v. USAA Sav. Bank

Decision Date15 November 2022
Docket Number4:21-00579-CV-RK
PartiesANTHONY WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, v. USAA SAVINGS BANK, Defendant.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri



No. 4:21-00579-CV-RK

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

November 15, 2022



Before the Court is Defendant USAA Savings Bank's (“Defendant”) motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 85.) The motion is fully briefed. (Docs. 86, 92, 93, 98.) For the reasons below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART:

Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED as to two of the three categories of actual damages claimed by the Plaintiff. Specifically, summary judgment is granted as to (1) economic damages, and (2) emotional distress damages stemming from Plaintiff's claim that Defendant negligently violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).

The Defendant's motion for summary judgment is DENIED as to (3) damages to creditworthiness and credit capacity, and also denied in all other respects.


This case arises from charges on Plaintiff Anthony Williams' (“Plaintiff”) accounts with Defendant USAA Savings Bank. Plaintiff alleges the charges are fraudulent, and Defendant maintains “the purchases in question were normal, non-suspicious activity, and that the accounts were not fraudulent[.]” (Doc. 86 at ¶ 14.)

Plaintiff filed his Petition alleging that Defendant willfully or negligently violated § 1681s-2(b) of the FCRA by failing to respond to Plaintiff's reinvestigation requests and by failing to supply accurate and truthful information. (Doc. 1-3 at ¶ 68.) Plaintiff seeks actual, statutory, and punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees and costs under 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681n & 1681o. (Doc. 1-3 at ¶ 74.)


In late November and early December of 2019, Plaintiff was vacationing in Colombia, South America, a country he has visited several times in the past few decades.[1](Doc. 92 at ¶¶ 12.) While visiting Colombia, Plaintiff routinely stayed in apartment-style lodging as opposed to a hotel. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 3.)

Plaintiff has two credit card accounts with Defendant, one ending in 3733 and the other ending in 6927. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 4.) During this specific trip to Colombia, Plaintiff asserts that he always had his USAA credits cards in his possession except for when they were placed on the airport conveyor belt at the customs checkpoint. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 10.) On December 1, 2019, two identical charges of $1,135.56 were made on each of Plaintiff's USAA credit card accounts to merchant “HOTEL VILLA OLYMPIC DE.” (Doc. 86 at ¶ 1; Doc. 92 at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff maintains that he never stayed at the Hotel Villa Olympic and alleges these charges are fraudulent.[2] (Doc. 92 at ¶¶ 8, 9.)

In January 2020, after reviewing his monthly credit card account statements, Plaintiff contacted Defendant to dispute the charges made on his cards to Hotel Villa Olympic. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 3; Doc. 92 at ¶ 11.) These are the only charge Plaintiff disputes from his late 2019 Colombia trip. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 12.) Defendant responded to Plaintiff's disputes by sending him two letters (one for each of Plaintiff's USAA credit cards) stating that Defendant had received the disputes, but that more information was required to investigate the transactions in question. (Doc. 86 at ¶¶ 4-6.) For the dispute on the card ending in 3733, Defendant asked Plaintiff if he had contacted the merchant to resolve the dispute and asked Plaintiff to send evidence, such as a bank statement, to support that the merchant received payment by other means. (Doc. 86-4.) For the dispute on the card ending in 6927, Defendant asked Plaintiff to send: (1) a detailed letter explaining the dispute, (2) the date the service was received, and (3) documentation that supports the nature of the dispute.


(Doc. 86-5.) In this letter, Defendant also asked Plaintiff if he contacted the merchant to resolve the dispute. (Doc. 86-5.) Defendant gave Plaintiff two weeks to submit the supporting documentation for his disputes. (Doc. 86-4; Doc. 86-5.)

In response to Defendant's request for more information, Plaintiff submitted a personal statement that he did not stay at the hotel in question, and he provided a letter from the hotel that stated, in Spanish, that Plaintiff had not stayed there during the timeframe when the charges appeared on his account. (Doc. 86 at ¶¶ 7, 8; Doc. 92 at ¶¶ 13, 14.) Defendant then sent two more letters to Plaintiff (again, one for each of Plaintiff's USAA credit cards) in February 2020, stating that the documentation provided was insufficient; as a result, Defendant determined that a billing error did not occur and concluded that Plaintiff remained liable for the transactions.[3](Doc. 86 at ¶¶ 9, 10; Doc. 92 at ¶ 15.) After this determination Plaintiff believes he called Defendant to reopen the disputes. (Doc. 86-2 at 52:1-53:1.)

Roughly a year after Plaintiff's initial contact with Defendant to dispute the Hotel Villa Olympic charges on his card, Plaintiff (with the assistance of counsel) contacted credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union (collectively, the “CRAs”) to again dispute the charges on his USAA credit cards, claiming the high balances on his accounts were the result of fraudulent charges. (Doc. 86 at ¶¶ 11, 12; Doc. 92 at ¶ 22.) Plaintiff contacted the CRAs a second time in late April of 2021 for the same purpose. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 13; Doc. 92 at ¶ 22.) Since Plaintiff's first contact with the CRAs in February 2021, there have been no “hard inquiries” on Plaintiff's credit. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 18.)

Defendant received eight Automated Consumer Dispute Verification forms (“ACDVs”) from the CRAs regarding Plaintiff's disputes, the first of which is dated February 14, 2021.[4]


(Doc. 92-14.) In May 2021, Defendant also received a fraud affidavit from Trans Union that was completed by Plaintiff in which he claimed that he was a victim of identity theft. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 24.)

Defendant maintains protocols for investigating a consumer dispute by which each dispute gets an independent review when Defendant receives multiple disputes as to one consumer. (Doc. 86 at ¶¶ 15, 16.) When investigating consumer disputes involving allegations of fraud, Defendant refers the dispute from the consumer report dispute team to the fraud department, regardless of whether the consumer alleges that the account in question was fraudulently opened or has been taken over.[5](Doc. 92 at ¶¶ 27, 28.) When a consumer alleges a charge is fraudulent, Defendant's fraud dispute team does not give any more weight to a consumer's affidavit or statement under penalty of perjury than it does to other types of fraud allegations. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 32.) After the dispute is sent from the consumer report team to the fraud team, the fraud department will then determine the accuracy of the fraud allegation and the consumer report dispute team will respond accordingly. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 27.) Defendant's fraud department conducted ten investigations into Plaintiff's accounts. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 31.) Defendant's fraud dispute team did not reach out to Plaintiff concerning his disputes. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 34.)

After Plaintiff first reached out to Defendant in January 2020, but before Plaintiff contacted the CRAs in February 2021, Plaintiff purchased a vehicle with a car loan that he applied for over the phone with Mazuma Credit Union (“Mazuma”). (Doc. 86 at ¶ 19.) Plaintiff had previously been approved for a car loan from Mazuma but had to re-apply in January 2021 when he purchased the vehicle. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 20.) Mazuma inquired into Plaintiff's credit history in October 2020, which was likely related to the car loan that Plaintiff ultimately obtained. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 21.) Plaintiff is unsure whether the disputed hotel charges had an impact on the terms of the car loan offered by Mazuma. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 22.)

Also, Plaintiff testified that he owned credit cards with Barclays and Capital One that had been cancelled due to lack of usage, and when Plaintiff reapplied to open those accounts after December 2019, the credit limits were lower. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 23.) Plaintiff noted he has “pretty good credit” and his debt-to-credit ratio was actually better when he reapplied for the Barclays and Capital One cards; thus, he was “shocked” the credit limits were lower when he reopened the cards.


(Doc. 86 at ¶ 24.) Regardless, Plaintiff admits he has not reached the credit limits on either his Barclays or Capital One credit cards. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 25.) However, Plaintiff asserts that, according to a credit report he received from one of the CRAs, keeping account balances as low as possible can have a positive impact on an individual's credit. (Doc. 92-11.)

Plaintiff states that because Defendant included the disputed charges on his account balance, he was forced over his credit limit for the card ending in 6927. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 19.) However, Defendant admits only that the appearance of all the charges on Plaintiff's credit card statement pushed him over his credit limit. (Doc. 93 at ¶ 19.) Plaintiff also testified that the appearance of the disputed charges harmed his credit score because Defendant reported Plaintiff's balance with the disputed charges to the CRAs, which resulted in an inflated debt-to-credit ratio. (Doc. 92 at ¶ 25.) Plaintiff had also planned on transferring balances from other credit cards onto his USAA cards to take advantage of lower interest rates, but was unable to because of the credit limit. (Doc. 86-2 at 18:16-19:11.) Lastly, although Plaintiff does not remember the specific reason for denial, Plaintiff testified that he had been “denied credit for a credit card” at some point since December 2019. (Doc. 86 at ¶ 26.)

Further facts are set forth as necessary.

Legal Standard

The Court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Rule 56(a). The Court views the evidence ...

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