Judge Grants Defendant’s Motion in FCRA Case Over Disputed Debt

A District Court judge in Washington has granted a defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in a Fair Credit Reporting Act case, even though the judge took the step of pointing out that the facts of the case were “disheartening,” ruling that a credit reporting agency could not be held responsible for reporting information on a debt that the plaintiff claimed should have been covered by her healthcare insurance.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Riser v. Central Portfolio Control et al. can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff incurred a debt of $2,790.37 following a visit to a hospital. The debt was eventually placed with one of the defendants, a collection agency, who then furnished information about the debt to the credit reporting agencies. The plaintiff claims she did not owe the debt because it should have been covered by Washington’s Medicaid plan and because she should have been entitled to charity care coverage.

The plaintiff disputed the debt multiple times and it was eventually discharged under the state’s Charity Care Act, at which point it was deleted from the plaintiff’s credit report. The plaintiff sued the collection agency and the credit reporting agency, alleging the CRA violated the FCRA by failing to conduct lawful reinvestigations, failing to mark the account as disputed, and failing to establish or follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy in preparation of its credit reports and credit files.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s disputes were about the legal validity of the debt, which is outside of its purview when conducting dispute investigations. Using the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Carvalho v. Equifax Information Services, Judge Lauren King of the District Court for the Western District of Washington had to side with the defendant.

“Reading the facts of this case is truly disheartening,” Judge King wrote. “The Court sympathizes with Riser, who suffered a frustrating and difficult situation with her credit report. However, as the Ninth Circuit has noted, a consumer disputing the validity of a debt should take that issue up with the source of the confusion or the furnisher, and the failure to do so is ‘no fault of the’ credit reporting agency.”

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