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Johnson v. Trans Union, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

July 15, 2019

MATTHEW JOHNSON
v.
TRANS UNION, LLC and DEFENSE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING SERVICE

          HORNSBY JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          ELIZABETH E. FOOTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court is a renewed motion to dismiss, or alternatively, a motion for relief from a prior order of the Court, filed by the only remaining Defendant, Defense Finance and Accounting Service ("DFAS"). See Record Document 48. For the second time, DFAS seeks to dismiss the claims of Plaintiff Matthew Johnson ("Johnson") due to an alleged lack of subject matter jurisdiction based upon sovereign immunity. Both Johnson's opposition to the motion to dismiss and DFAS's reply in support of its motion have been submitted [Record Documents 53 & 55], and therefore the matter is ripe for review. Upon due consideration of the briefing and the available jurisprudence, and for the following reasons, DFAS's motion is GRANTED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Court reiterates the facts as set forth in its prior opinion:

According to Johnson's complaint, he was a member of the Texas National Guard in 2007. He was scheduled to attend drill in August 2007. The August drill was cancelled, and Johnson attended drill in November 2007 instead. DFAS, a federal agency, paid Johnson for the August drill he did not attend, but did not pay him for the November drill that he did attend. Therefore, Johnson was ultimately paid the correct amount for the number of drills he attended.
In 2014, Johnson received a letter from DFAS seeking reimbursement of the payment for the August 2007 drill he did not attend. Johnson has repeatedly sought to explain the circumstances to DFAS, that is, that he was not overpaid at all. Nonetheless, DFAS reported the debt to Trans Union, Experian, and Equifax, all of which are credit reporting agencies. The debt was noted as a "derogatory, charged off debt." In October 2015, Johnson disputed Trans Union's inclusion of the debt on his credit report, thus requiring Trans Union to perform a reasonable investigation of the dispute under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., Johnson then brought suit under the FCRA, alleging that both Trans Union and DFAS violated multiple provisions of that Act which require reasonable investigations be conducted into both the debt and the dispute. As a result of the alleged failure to comply with the FCRA, coupled with the fact that the debt has remained on his credit report, Johnson seeks damages under the FCRA.

         Record Document 27.

         DFAS, a federal government agency within the Department of Defense, previously moved to dismiss Johnson's claims, arguing that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for FCRA claims. The Court initially disagreed with that position and denied DFAS's motion. Upon further consideration of the matter, the Court finds that sovereign immunity has not been unequivocally waived as required, and therefore holds the United States may not be sued for a violation of the FCRA.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).

         Motions filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allow a party to challenge the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court to hear a case. "Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be found in any one of three instances: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts'' Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction. See Id. In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, "the district court is empowered to consider matters of fact which may be in dispute." Id. "Ultimately, a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should be granted only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle plaintiff to relief.'' Id.

         ''A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case." Home Builders Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting Nowak v. Ironworkers Local 6 Pension Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1187 (2d Cir. 1996)). If sovereign immunity is not expressly waived under the FCRA, this Court is deprived of subject matter jurisdiction over Johnson's claims against DFAS. See Wagstaff v. U.S. Dep't of Educ, 509 F.3d 661, 664 (5th Cir. 2007) (holding that the absence of a waiver of sovereign immunity is a jurisdictional defect). Because a defect in subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, even on appeal, Giles v. NYLCare Health Plans, Inc., 172 F.3d 332, 336 (5th Cir. 1999), this Court is free to examine the issue now even though it previously rendered an opinion on the matter.

         II. Sover ...


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