LOCATION: United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan
DOCKET NO.: 00-1045
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 534 US 19 (2001)
ARGUED: Oct 09, 2001
DECIDED: Nov 13, 2001
Andrew R. Henderson - Argued the cause for the respondent
Glen D. Nager - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Kent L. Jones - Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court, supporting the respondent
Facts of the case
In 1993, while at a doctor's office in California, Adelaide Andrews filled out a form listing her name, Social Security number, and other basic information. An office receptionist named Andrea Andrews copied the data and later moved to Las Vegas, where she attempted to open credit accounts using Adelaide's Social Security number and her own last name and address. Thereafter, TRW Inc. furnished copies of Adelaide's credit report to companies from which Andrea sought credit. In 1996, Adelaide filed suit, alleging that TRW had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by failing to verify predisclosure of her credit report to third parties. TRW moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that the FCRA's statute of limitations had expired on Adelaide's claims stemming from TRW's first two disclosures because both occurred more than two years before she brought suit. Adelaide countered that the limitations period on those claims did not commence until she discovered the disclosures. The District Court held the two claims time-barred. In reversing, the Court of Appeals applied what it considered to be a general federal rule that a statute of limitations starts running when a party knows or has reason to know she was injured, unless Congress expressly legislates otherwise.
Does the Fair Credit Reporting Act's two-year statute of limitations governing actions to enforce any liability created by the act commence to run only upon a party's discovery of alleged violations of the act?
Media for TRW Inc. v. AndrewsAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 2001 in TRW Inc. v. Andrews
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - November 13, 2001 in TRW Inc. v. Andrews
William H. Rehnquist:
No.00-1045,T.R.W., Inc. versus Andrews will be announced by Justice Ginsburg.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
This case concerns a credit theft and the time allowed for brining suits under the Fair Credit Reporting Act called by its initials FCRA.
The Act’s time limitations provisions Section 1681(p) contains a main rule and an exception.
Generally, an action to enforce any liability created under the Act must be brought within two years from the date on which the liability arises.
In cases involving certain misrepresentations by the credit reporting company to the person whose credit is affected however, suit may be brought within two years after the plaintiff’s discovery of the misrepresentation.
The Ninth Circuits construed this entire provision and might have a prescription that Court described as the General Federal Rule.
Statutes of Limitations, the Ninth Circuit said, begin running upon the plaintiff’s discovery of her injury here the tarnish on her credit, unless Congress has expressly legislated otherwise.
Accordingly, that Court read Section 1681(p) to contain two discrete discovery prescriptions, a generally applicable implied discovery rule and in addition the exceptional discovery rule set out in the statute's text, applying what it believed to be the general rule, the Appeals Court held timely all four other FCRA disclosure claims, Plaintiffrespondent Adelaide Andrews brought against defendantpetitioner T.R.W., Inc.
The Ninth Circuit's sole rule even though two of Andrews’ four claims were brought more than two years by close to a month or three after the occurrence of the alleged violation.
Those claims came under the wire the Ninth Circuit said because they were initiated less than two years, in fact some 17 months after, Andrews discovered the asserted wrongdoing.
We reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling and hold that a general discovery rule does not govern Section 1681(p).
That Section explicitly delineates the exceptional cases in which discovery figures the two-year limitation and Andrews claims did not fall within the exceptional category.
Even if the Ninth Circuit correctly identified a general presumption in favor of a discovery rule and issue, we do not decide such a presumption would not apply to the FCRA Section 1681(p)'s text and structure our opinion explains.
So that Congress sought to preclude judicial implication of a discovery rule where congress sets out particular exceptions to a general prohibition courts have no warrant to enlarge the exceptions absent a green light turned on by the legislator.
In this case, we will distort 1681(p)'s text while we too convert the explicit limited exception into a general rule.
Reading a general discovery rule into Section 1681(p), we stressed with impractical effect render the expressed exception insignificant, if not wholly superfluous, that reading runs up against the cardinal principle of statutory construction.
We do not likely attribute to words Congress wrote redundancy or trivial significance.
Because the issue was not raised below, we do not reach Andrews’ alternative argument even if Section 1681(p) does not incorporate a general discovery rule she maintains.
The liability does not arise under the FCRA when a violation occurs but only on a sometimes later date when actual damages materialize.
Given the complaint in this case, we doubt that the argument even if generally persuasive would save Andrews from encountering a time bar.
Justice Scalia has filed an opinion, concurring in the judgment in which Justice Thomas joins.