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Wright v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 14, 2014

GARY A. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
EXPERIAN INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, INC., and TRANS UNION LLC, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, District Judge.

Defendants Experian and Trans Union, both credit reporting agencies (CRAs), published reports that attributed a federal tax lien to Plaintiff Garry A. Wright. Plaintiff disputes that he is responsible for the lien and argues Defendants violated various laws regulating CRAs by inaccurately reporting otherwise. Because it is reasonable to interpret the federal lien as applying to Plaintiff, Defendants violated no law by including it on Plaintiff's credit report. This Court therefore grants Defendants' motions for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

A. IRS ISSUES NOTICE OF FEDERAL TAX LIEN

This dispute revolves around the parties' competing interpretations of a notice of federal tax lien (NFTL) issued by the IRS on May 15, 2009. The Court reproduces in relevant part of the NFTL on the following page:

(Doc. # 85-8 at 15.)

For present purposes, two items in the above reproduction merit further discussion because they go to the heart of the agreements and disagreements between the parties in this case.

First, the parties dispute the import of the part of the above section of the NFTL for "Name of Taxpayer, " where it states "Attorneys Title Insurance Agency of Wright Gary A Member." On the one hand, the parties agree that the NFTL can be interpreted to apply against Attorneys Title Insurance Agency of Aspen, LLC (ATA).[1] On the other hand, the parties disagree about whether, given the way the NFTL is worded, it also can be interpreted to apply against Plaintiff.

Second, the "Kind of Tax" category in the reproduction indicates that this lien is for "[Form] 941" employment taxes. If the IRS believes a business is liable for 941 employment taxes, the IRS can pursue theories of tax liability designed to hold a responsible member of a company personally liable for failure to pay 941 employment taxes. See, e.g., Med. Practice Solutions, LLC v. Comm'r, 98 T.C.M. (CCH) 242 (2009), supplemented, 99 T.C.M. (CCH) 1392 (2010). There is no dispute that, as a general matter, the IRS has relied on such a theory of 941 tax liability in the past. At the same time, the parties disagree about whether the IRS had the intention and ability to pursue such a theory of tax liability against Plaintiff.[2]

Regardless of how one reads the NFTL, its issuance caused the Pitkin County Clerk to record the following information about Plaintiff, which the Court reproduces in relevant part:

Full Name Cross Party Name Record Date Doc Type Reception Wright Gary A Internal Revenue Service 5/27/2009 FED TAX LIEN 559399

(Doc. # 85-1 at 7.)

The parties provide no further evidence on why the Pitkin County Clerk decided to present the information in the table as it did above. For example, neither party provides testimony about how Pitkin County interprets NFTLs, nor do the parties address whether there are any procedures when liens are asserted against multiple parties or pursuant to NFTLs related to 941 tax liability.

The same information contained in the Pitkin County Clerk's record appears in substantially the same form in a record created by LexisNexis, a data collection company. See, e.g., (Doc. # 86-7 at 2.) Both Defendants relied on the LexisNexis report-rather than the underlying NFTL-in determining that the NFTL applied to Plaintiff. Further, at all times relevant here, both Defendants reported the NFTL on the credit reports they compiled about Plaintiff. See, e.g., (Doc. ## 85 at ¶ 10; 87 at ¶¶ 25-26).[3]

B. PLAINTIFF DISPUTES THE NFTL WITH THE IRS

On September 10, 2009, Plaintiff first disputed the validity of the NFTL in a letter sent to the IRS. In the letter, Plaintiff provided copies of a check sent to and then cashed by the IRS before May 12, 2009. Plaintiff alleged that this check covered the full amount of the lien. Plaintiff argued that the evidence of the check established the NFTL was prematurely and ...


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