A seemingly clear path to a furnisher victory reported in this prior post hits a snag when the district court partly denies the magistrate’s report and recommendation in Hassel v. Centric Bank, No. 1:19-CV-02081, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98069 (M.D. Pa. June 4, 2020). As you may recall, in granting Centric’s motion to dismiss Mr. Hassel’s FCRA claim, the magistrate judge concluded that an October 16 Centric email attached to Mr. Hassel’s complaint “directly contradict[ed] Hassel’s claim and eliminate[d] the plausibility that Centric’s report was factually inaccurate.” So, if it’s not inaccurate, it can’t be a viable FCRA claim. Seemed clear enough, but the district court had a different twist on the now famous October 16 Centric email attached to Mr. Hassel’s complaint.
Before we get to that twist, what did this email look like anyway? You can check it out HERE.
From the district court’s view, it determined that to “make clear that the payment was late and Centric bank communicated that fact to” Mr. Hassel “requires a factual inference as to when the payment is due.” Can you see the issue? While the email is filled with certain undisputed facts–i.e., payment amounts–the Court observed that “[n]one of the date columns are labeled” and, as a result, it is not clear on the face of the email when the disputed payment was in fact due. So, one really can’t tell whether the information is accurate or not based on this email and doing so requires the Court to draw an inference. Because the Court cannot make findings of fact (i.e., draw the factual inference when payment was due) at the motion to dismiss phase, the Court rejected the magistrate’s report and recommendation reviving Mr. Hassel’s failure to investigate claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b). But this is likely only a slight detour for Centric given it should be pretty easy to clear up this factual question in a motion for summary judgment, and, of course, we will keep following the Hassel road here at CPW.