See, e.g., Advanced Conservation, 934 F. Supp. at 54-55;
Baker, 850 F. Supp. at 264.
A. Liability of Professional Under the FCRA
At the time that Professional had the "social search" conducted
to obtain Plaintiff's address, it had been referred a debt for
collection, guaranteed by Plaintiff, from North Shore Hospital.
The referral of that debt gave Professional a permissible purpose
for obtaining the credit information pursuant to
15 U.S.C. § 1681b. Specifically, Professional sought the information in the
collection of a credit transaction involving Plaintiff. This is a
clearly permissible purpose under Section 1681b(3)(A). The
existence of this permissible purpose constitutes a complete
defense to the claim that the information was obtained under
false pretenses under Section 1681n(b) and therefore entitles
Professional to summary judgment. See Advanced Conservation,
934 F. Supp. at 54-55; Baker, 850 F. Supp. at 264.
Plaintiff makes much of the fact that Professional had
apparently abandoned all attempts to collect the North Shore
Hospital debt prior to the date when he attempted service on
Professional. The coincidence of service on Professional and
accessing plaintiff's credit information, however, fails to
create an issue of fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.
First, as noted, the existence of a permissible purpose is a
complete defense to Plaintiff's claim and requires a grant of
defendant's motion for summary judgment. Advanced Conservation,
934 F. Supp. at 54-55. Even assuming that there is a cause of
action under the FCRA for some "mixed motive" accessing of
information, plaintiff has come forward with no evidence of an
improper purpose on the part of Professional.
As clearly set forth in Professional's uncontroverted
affidavit, Professional made a business decision not to pursue
any collection activities in connection with the North Shore
Hospital debt. Thus, no collection activity, bad-faith, harassing
or otherwise, followed the accessing of the information regarding
Plaintiff. Additionally, there is no allegation of any improper
use of Plaintiff's address. Further, there was never any
publication of the fact that Professional made an inquiry
regarding Plaintiff's credit report to any entity seeking to
access Plaintiffs credit report. As clearly stated in that
report, a "social search" such as that conducted on behalf of
Professional, is not reported as a credit inquiry.
In view of the foregoing, the court holds that Professional's
goal of obtaining a current address for a debtor was a
permissible purpose for accessing Plaintiff's credit report.
Accordingly, Professional is entitled to summary judgment on the
FCRA claim. Accord Korotki, 931 F. Supp. 1269, 1275 (accessing
credit report to obtain address at which to serve plaintiff with
process was a permissible purpose under the FCRA entitling
defendant to summary judgment on false pretenses claim), aff'd,
131 F.3d 135, 1997 WL 753322 (4th Cir. 1997).
B. Remaining Claims
In addition to seeking redress pursuant to the FCRA Plaintiff
seeks to impose liability on Professional under the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 408 (the "Social Security Act Claim")
and the Consumer Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030
(the "Computer Fraud Act Claim").
Plaintiff's Social Security Act claim states that Professional
violated 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(8). That statute imposes a criminal
penalty on anyone who "discloses, uses, or compels the disclosure
of the social security number of any person in violation of the
laws of the United States." As defendant correctly points out,
this is a criminal statute which provides for no civil remedies.
Plaintiff has not even bothered to brief the issue of whether a
of action may be pursued under this statute.
Even if such a cause of action exists, however, Plaintiff's
claim must be dismissed. As noted above, Professional was in
possession of Plaintiff's social security number because of the
referral of the North Shore Hospital debt. In view of the court's
holding above, that Professional used the social security number
for a permissible purpose under the FCRA, there can be no claim
that the number was used "in violation of the laws of the United
States." 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(8).
For similar reasons, the court dismisses the Computer Fraud Act
claim. The relevant statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, imposes liability
for accessing a computer, without authorization, and thereby
obtaining consumer information contained in a file of a consumer
reporting agency. Because Professional accessed Plaintiff's
address for a permissible purpose under the FCRA, that access
cannot be said to have been without "authorization" as required
to impose liability under the Computer Fraud Act. Thus,
Professional is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's
Computer Fraud Act claim.
C. Attorneys Fees
Professional seeks an award of attorneys fees pursuant to
15 U.S.C. § 1681n(c). That section provides for an award of fees
associated with responding to an unsuccessful pleading or motion
that was filed "in bad faith or for purposes of harassment."
15 U.S.C. § 1681n(c). Fees are not awarded simply because a party
prevails in litigation. Instead, it must be shown that the party
who did not prevail commenced and continued the litigation in bad
faith or for purposes of harassment. The court has considered the
record and submissions of the parties and declines to award
attorneys fees in this matter.
The motion for summary judgment of defendant Professional
Claims Bureau, Inc. is granted in all respects. The motion for
attorneys fees is denied. The Clerk of the Court is directed to
close the files in this case.
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