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Landry v. Thomson Reuters Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

September 24, 2018

Ryan Landry, Plaintiff
v.
Thomson Reuters Corporation, Defendant

          Amy E. Tabor, Esq. Michael A. Caddell, Esq. Benjamin J. Wyatt, Esq. Michael Varraso, Esq. Abigail S. Romero, Esq. Joseph W. Ozmer, II, Esq. Michael D. Kabat, Esq. Michele E. Kenney, Esq. Eric Bosset, Esq. Geoffrey J. Vitt, Esq. Neil K. Roman, Esq.

          ORDER

          Steven J. McAuliffe United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Ryan Landry, filed this proposed class action against his former employer, Time Warner Cable, as well as Thomson Reuters Corporation. Landry alleged that Time Warner violated various provisions of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), as well as New Hampshire's statutory analogue. He also claimed Time Warner wrongfully terminated his employment and, in so doing, violated New Hampshire's Whistleblower Protection Act. But, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 138 S.Ct. 1612 (2018), Landry voluntarily dismissed all of those claims from this case and will pursue them in arbitration, as required by the terms of his employment contract. See generally Stipulation of Voluntary Dismissal (document no. 32).

         What remain, then, are Landry's claims against Thomson Reuters Corporation (“TRC”). In his amended complaint, Landry advances four causes of action against TRC (on behalf of himself and two proposed classes of similarly situated plaintiffs). Generally speaking, Landry asserts that TRC is a “Consumer Reporting Agency, ” as defined in the FCRA, and that it prepared and disseminated a report about him that contained inaccurate and out-of-date adverse information, including false statements that he had served time in a Texas prison - all in violation of the FCRA. See Amended Complaint (document no. 40) at paras. 30-34.

         Pending before the court is TRC's motion to stay these proceedings pending resolution of the ongoing arbitration between Landry and Time Warner. In TRC's view, Landry's claims against it are entirely derivative of those against his former employer. Specifically, TRC says Landry lacks standing to pursue his claims against it unless he can establish a causal connection between his injury (i.e., loss of his job) and Time Warner's reliance upon the allegedly inaccurate and/or outdated information contained in the report TRC prepared and disseminated. That is to say, Landry must demonstrate some particularized and concrete harm flowing from TRC's alleged violations of the FCRA. And, because Time Warner denies that it discharged Landry for any reason related to that report (an issue that will be resolved in arbitration), TRC asserts that principles of judicial economy counsel in favor of staying these proceedings. If, says TRC, the arbitrator determines that Landry was fired for reasons unrelated to TRC's report, then Landry cannot show any injury flowing from TRC's alleged statutory violations. Under those circumstances, he would lack standing to pursue any FCRA claim against TRC.

         Landry, on the other hand, does not directly address the issue of standing. Rather, he asserts that because he seeks both actual and statutory damages for TRC's alleged violations of the FCRA, there is no reason to delay this proceeding while he pursues his claims against Time Warner in arbitration. According to Landry, the reason Time Warner fired him, and whether it relied upon TRC's allegedly improper report, are immaterial to this litigation; he need not establish a causal connection between TRC's statutory violations and his harm. Instead, says Landry, he can still recover statutory damages from TRC without a showing of any actual injury; to recover statutory damages, he merely needs to show that TRC willfully violated one or more provisions of the FCRA. See Plaintiff's Objection (document no. 41) at 6. See generally 15 U.S.C. § 1681n (authorizing the recovery of statutory damages).

         While the parties' briefs are not entirely helpful (since they seem to be arguing different points), the court concludes that even if Landry's discharge was not directly linked to TRC's alleged violations of the FCRA, his amended complaint adequately alleges particularized, concrete harms stemming from those violations sufficient to vest him with standing to pursue his claims. Nevertheless, establishing that Landry has standing to pursue his claims against TRC does not resolve the question of whether a stay is appropriate.

         Because Landry is seeking actual damages from TRC - that is, damages stemming from the loss of his job with Time Warner -a stay of these proceedings would seem entirely appropriate, pending resolution of the arbitration proceedings between Landry and Time Warner.

         Background

         Accepting the factual allegations of Landry's amended complaint as true - as the court must at this juncture - the relevant facts are as follows. In July of 2015, Landry applied for a job with Time Warner. As part of that application process, Landry authorized Time Warner to conduct a pre-hiring background check. That background check revealed - correctly, it would seem - that Landry had no criminal history. On August 7, 2015, Time Warner hired Landry as a “retail specialist” in its Gorham call center.

         Landry claims he performed his job duties in a satisfactory manner and soon became one of the highest performing sales people in the call center. But, on December 3, 2015, he was called into a meeting with two members of Time Warner's corporate security division. Landry says that during the course of that meeting, one of Time Warner's representatives accused him of having been convicted of a crime (and having served a prison sentence) in Texas, and he began asking Landry questions about that alleged conviction. Landry denied having ever been convicted of a crime in Texas or having served a criminal sentence there. He claims the Time Warner representative responded by saying, “Funny, you have the same date of birth and Social Security No. as the Ryan Landry who served time in Harris County, Texas.” Amended Complaint at para. 24. At the close of that meeting, Landry says he was suspended without pay “because the Corporate Security Division had received information through a report that made them believe that Mr. Landry had been convicted of a crime in Texas.” Id. at para. 27.

         Based upon that interaction, Landry inferred that Time Warner must have conducted another background check on him - one he says he never authorized and of which he was unaware. Indeed, he specifically alleges that Time Warner “utilized an unauthorized consumer report to run a background check on Mr. Landry which it obtained through [TRC's] CLEAR (Consolidated Lead Evaluation and Reporting) service.” Id. at para. 29. Landry further alleges that the report provided by TRC “included adverse information that was more than seven years old, including, but not limited to, arrests and/or dismissals of criminal counts from 2000” - much of which he says is wholly inaccurate. Id. at 32. Finally, he claims that TRC “knew or should have known that [Time Warner] would use the information in the [report], in whole or part, for the purposes of establishing Mr. Landry's eligibility for employment.” Id. at 33.

         In the days following his suspension, Landry contacted officials at the Harris County prison and confirmed that a person who shares his name did indeed serve time there. However, neither that individual's birth date nor his social security No. is the same as Landry's. Landry then contacted Time Warner and explained what he had learned. He says Time Warner acknowledged that there had been a mistake and admitted that Landry had not lied on his job application. “Despite this, [Time Warner] informed Mr. Landry that the Company had nonetheless decided to terminate his employment.” Id. at para. 38. Time Warner explained that Landry was being fired for a reason entirely unrelated to the confusion concerning his background - that is, for having violated workplace conduct rules. Landry says he was provided with few details about the alleged incident that formed the basis of his termination and asserts that it is a pretext for some sort of unlawful conduct. As noted above, those FCRA and employment-related claims against Time Warner - including Landry's claim that Time Warner terminated his employment based upon inaccuracies in the TRC report - are no longer before the court and will be resolved in arbitration.

         After he dismissed his claims against Time Warner in this proceeding, Landry filed an amended complaint against TRC. In it, Landry alleges that TRC violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act in four ways: (1) it provided Time Warner with a consumer credit report without certifying that Time Warner had disclosed to Landry that the report was being procured for employment purposes and without providing a summary of Landry's rights with respect to that report, see 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(b); (2) it failed to notify Landry of the fact that it was reporting public record information and failed to maintain strict procedures to insure that such public record information was complete and up-to-date, see 15 U.S.C. § 1681k(a); (3) it failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the information provided in the reports it prepared, see 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b); and (4) it provided outdated, adverse information that antedated the report by more than seven years, see 15 U.S.C. § 1681c(a). Landry seeks actual damages for ...


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