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Wojtczak v. Safeco Property & Casualty Insurance Companies

November 5, 2009

WALTER WOJTCZAK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SAFECO PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANIES, KELLY OW ENS, JENNIFER BRODRICK AND HEIDI TRAVERSO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This is an action in which Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, alleges that Defendants improperly accessed his personal credit and banking information, and defamed him, after he telephoned Defendant Safeco Property & Casualty Insurance Companies ("Safeco") to obtain a quote for automobile insurance. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings [#13]. For the reasons that follow, the application is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following information is distilled from the Amended Complaint [#5] in this action, as supplemented by two letters from Plaintiff [#8][#9]. On September 11, 2007, Walter Wojtczak ("Plaintiff") telephoned Safeco to obtain a price quote for automobile insurance. Plaintiff spoke to a Safeco employee, Defendant Kelly Owens ("Owens") for approximately one or two minutes. Plaintiff merely inquired about insurance, and did not actually apply for coverage. During the brief phone conversation, Owens did not provide him any legal disclosures, and Plaintiff did not give Owens permission to access his credit history.*fn1

On or about September 20, 2007, Plaintiff received a computer-generated form letter on Safeco letterhead, electronically signed by Owens. According to information provided by Safeco, it appears that defendant Jennifer Brodrick ("Brodrick") was the Safeco employee who actually mailed the declination notice to Plaintiff. The letter stated: "Dear Walter: It was a pleasure speaking with you concerning your insurance needs. Unfortunately, we are not able to place this policy in a Safeco Market. Enclosed is a Declination Notice outlining the reason(s) for our decision." The attached notice indicated that Emerald City Insurance Agency in Seattle, W ashington had declined to offer Plaintiff insurance, for the following reasons:

Credit was a factor in our decision. Other factors, either singly or in combination, influenced this decision including: prior driving record, prior claims history, and driver characteristics. Length of time accounts have been established. Number of bank or national revolving/open accounts. Relationship of balance to high credit on bank/national accounts or other revolving/open accounts.

The notice further stated:

The information about your credit history that we relied upon was provided by ChoicePoint, a consumer reporting agency. ChoicePoint can provide you with a free copy of your credit report, and can answer questions about that report, but, because ChoicePoint did not make this decision, ChoicePoint will not be able to answer questions about our decision.... W hen you contact ChoicePoint, use the following reference number: 07654123623785.

Because this consumer information adversely affected your ability to obtain insurance with Safeco, all of the companies listed above are providing this notice as required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you certain rights regarding information about you. You have the right, under Section 612, to obtain a free copy of the report from ChoicePoint, as long as you request it within 60 days of receiving this letter.

You also have the right, under Section 611, to dispute with them the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the report.

Plaintiff never obtained a copy of the credit report from ChoicePoint, and therefore he does not know what information it contained.

In addition, the declination notice letter bore a hand-written notation, stating: "Username S351C Password Deannaguido Oldsmobile 88 1954." From this, Plaintiff concludes that Safeco must have determined his secret bank security code, which was 351c. However, there is no indication that Defendants accessed Plaintiff's bank account or took any money from him. (See, [#22]: "[N]o money from my account was stolen to this date."). Further, Plaintiff contends that Safeco must have investigated his daughter, whose name is Deanna Guido. In that regard, Plaintiff states that on September 11, 2007, September 20, 2007, "and other unknown dates," Owens and/or Brodrick "illegally involved" Plaintiff's daughter, by investigating her "to an unknown extent."

Upon receiving the declination notice, Plaintiff complained to Safeco. Plaintiff also filed complaints with the Police Department of Liberty Lake, W ashington, where Safeco's offices are located, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner of the State of W ashington, the New York State Insurance Department, and the Office of the Sheriff of Monroe County, New York. However, after investigating Plaintiff's claims, none of these agencies took action against Defendants.

Attached to the Complaint is a report by Detective Ray Bourgeois ("Bourgeois") of the Liberty Lake Police Department, dated September 17, 2007, purporting to detail his meeting with Owens and Safeco Security Officer Heidi Traverso ("Traverso") at Safeco's Offices. According to the report, Owens told the investigator that Plaintiff called Safeco earlier in the month and inquired about insuring a 1954 Delta 88 automobile. Owens stated that she gave Plaintiff a verbal disclosure required by the State of New York, concerning her obtaining a credit-based insurance score. Owens further stated that she was in the process of obtaining such a score when Plaintiff declined to provide his social security number. Owens indicated that consequently, she stopped the quote process and subsequently sent Plaintiff a form letter indicating that Safeco would not insure him. Owens denied making the handwritten notations on the letter. Moreover, Owens denied having anything to do with Plaintiff's bank password, and stated that Safeco would not need that information to prepare an insurance quote.

Plaintiff subsequently spoke with Bourgeois by telephone on June 24, 2008, and tape-recorded the conversation. Bourgeois reiterated that as part of his investigation of Plaintiff's complaint, he met with Owens and Traverso. According to Bourgeois, Owens told him that the declination letter was computer generated, and that she did not actually sign the letter or see it before it went into the mail. Additionally, according to Bourgeois, Owens indicated that she did not write on the letter, and that if there was writing on the letter, it was put there after Plaintiff received the letter. Further, Bourgeois stated that Owens denied checking Plaintiff's credit.

On November 9, 2007, James Kolanko ("Kolanko"), an employee of Safeco, sent a letter to the New York State Insurance Department, in response to an inquiry by that ...


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