Bentley v. Greensky Trade Credit, LLC

Decision Date30 December 2015
Docket NumberCASE NO. 3:14-cv-1157 (VAB)
Citation156 F.Supp.3d 274
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
Parties Elise Bentley, Plaintiff, v. Greensky Trade Credit, LLC, Tri-State of Branford, LLC, Brad Pompilli, and Dan Roe, Defendants.

Joseph Robert Sastre, The Law Office of Joseph R. Sastre, LLC, Bristol, CT, Nitor V. Egbarin, Law Office of Nitor V. Egbarin, LLC Hartford, CT, for Plaintiff.

Carl T. Gulliver, Coan, Lewendon, Gulliver & Miltenberger, Michael W. Cahill, Law Offices of Michael W. Cahill, New Haven, CT, Christopher G. Winans, Christopher G. Winans, Esq. P.C., Danbury, CT, Alexandria J. Reyes, Troutman Sanders LLP, Atlanta, GA, James A. Wade, Robinson & Cole, Hartford, CT, for Defendants.

RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JOINDER AND DEFENDANT GREENSKY'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff, Elise Bentley, has brought this action seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs, and injunctive relief against various actors she believes to have been involved in an alleged scheme to defraud her. Compl. at 17, ECF No. 1. Defendants are two entities, GreenSky Trade Credit, LLC (GreenSky), Tri-State of Branford, LLC (Tri-State), as well as two individuals who were affiliated with Tri-State1 , Brad Pompilli and Dan Roe. Id. ¶¶5-8; GreenSky's Local Rule 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶1, ECF No. 81. In the currently operative Complaint, Ms. Bentley makes claims against all Defendants under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. , the Federal Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq. , the Connecticut TILA, Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 36a–675, 36a–685, and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 41–110a et seq . Compl. at Counts Two to Four, ECF No. 1. In Count Five, she also alleges that GreenSky is vicariously liable for the conduct of the other Defendants. Compl. at Count Five, ECF No. 1.2

After Ms. Bentley filed her Complaint, Tri-State filed for bankruptcy. Suggestion of Bankruptcy, ECF No. 33. Under 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)(1), the Court stayed the case against Tri-State pending the resolution of the bankruptcy proceeding. Order dated 12/16/014, ECF No. 39; 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)(1) (noting that a stay must enter in a case against a debtor that “was or could have been commenced” before the bankruptcy petition was filed or in a case seeking to recover “a claim against the debtor that arose before” the bankruptcy case commenced). The stay was entered after the Court entered a default judgment against Tri-State, ECF No. 253 , for failing to appear or otherwise defend the action, but before a hearing on damages could be held. The stay with respect to Tri-State remains in effect at the time of this ruling. The case has proceeded as to all other parties.4

Ms. Bentley has filed a Motion for Joinder, ECF No. 68, which seeks leave to add Union First Market Bank (formerly known as StellarOne Bank) as a Defendant as well as to add claims of negligence, against the bank only, and identity theft, against the bank and the current Defendants. Proposed Am. Compl., ECF No. 68-2. GreenSky has filed a motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 80, which asks the Court to summarily dismiss all claims against GreenSky. The Court has taken up the motions together because they deal with similar legal questions. Order dated 6/30/2015, ECF No. 84.

For the reasons that follow, the Motion for Joinder, ECF No. 68, is DENIED , in that Ms. Bentley may not add Union First Market Bank as a party to this case. However, to the extent the motion seeks to add identity theft claims against Defendants Roe and Pompilli, that request is GRANTED . GreenSky's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 80, is also GRANTED in its entirety.

I. Motion for Joinder (ECF No. 68)

Ms. Bentley, asks the Court to add Union First Market Bank as a party to the instant action under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2) and 15(a)(2). Mot. for Joinder, ECF No. 68. GreenSky concedes that the requirements of Rule 20 are met but objects to the motion because, it argues, the proposed claims against the bank are futile. Opp. Br. 4, ECF No. 74. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees and denies Ms. Bentley's request to add Union First Market Bank as a party to the case.

Ms. Bentley initially filed a motion seeking to add Union First Market Bank under Rule 19 on February 5, 2015, ECF No. 50. Although the motion was filed after the Court's deadline to add parties had elapsed, the Court found that Ms. Bentley had shown good cause to amend the schedule and considered her arguments to add the bank on the merits. Ruling on Pl.'s Mot. to Add a Def. 6, ECF No. 61. The Court ultimately denied the February 5 motion, because it determined that adding the bank under Rule 19 was improper. Id. at 9. The Court also noted that Ms. Bentley had failed to file a proposed amended complaint, clarifying the nature of the claims she would allege against Union First Market Bank. Id. at 9–10. The Court provided Ms. Bentley with thirty days to file a revised motion to add Union First Market Bank. Id. at 6.

In this motion, Ms. Bentley has cured these defects by moving to add the bank under Rule 20 and attaching a Proposed Amended Complaint, ECF No. 68-2. In her Proposed Amended Complaint, Ms. Bentley alleges that Union First Market Bank “was in the business of issuing various types of loans, credits and other consumer banking products, services and programs, including the GreenSky Installment Loan Program which is the subject of this action.” Id. ¶9. She makes this claim based on a contract produced by GreenSky during the course of discovery, which shows that Stellar One Bank, Union First Market Bank's predecessor, was the “actual creditor” on the installment loan issued by GreenSky to Ms. Bentley. Ruling on Pl.'s Mot. to Add a Def. 6, ECF No. 61; Mot. for Joinder Br. 2, ECF No. 68-1.

Since GreenSky concedes that the requirements of Rule 20 are satisfied, the Court need not address them. Opp. Br. 4, ECF No. 74. Instead, the Court must decide whether the claims asserted against Union First Market Bank are futile.

A. Standard

“Once a responsive pleading has been served, 'a party may amend the party's pleading only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires.' Jones v. New York State Div. of Military and Naval Affairs , 166 F.3d 45, 50 (2d Cir.1999) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a) ). Leave to amend is freely given under Rule 15(a) “in the absence of bad faith or prejudice to the nonmoving party.” R&M Jewelry, LLC v. Michael Anthony Jewelers, Inc. , 221 F.R.D. 398, 399 (S.D.N.Y.2004) (citing Block v. First Blood Assocs. , 988 F.2d 344, 350 (2d Cir.1993) ). However, a Court may deny leave to amend if the proposed amendment would be futile because it fails to state a claim that would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Lucente v. Int'l. Bus. Machs. Corp. , 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir.2002) (citations omitted).

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). A claim is facially plausible if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, a complaint must offer more than “labels and conclusion,” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or “naked assertion[s] devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). In determining whether the plaintiff has met this standard, the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Newman & Schwartz v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co., Inc. , 102 F.3d 660, 662 (2d Cir.1996) (citations omitted).

B. Vicarious Liability (Count Five)

Ms. Bentley has a separate count of “vicarious liability” in the Proposed Amended Complaint. Proposed Am. Compl. ¶¶98-102, ECF No. 68-2. Indeed, the crux of Ms. Bentley's allegations against Union First Market Bank is that the bank is vicariously liable for the actions of all other named Defendants. Proposed Am. Compl. ¶¶99-100, ECF No. 68-2. The Court finds that Ms. Bentley has failed to allege facts that raise a plausible inference that Union First Market Bank had an agency relationship with any of the current Defendants.

In support of her claim that the bank is vicariously liable for the actions of the other Defendants, Ms. Bentley identifies the bank as “the principal or master of its servants or agents or Sales Consultants/Associates,” which she identifies as the other named Defendants. Id. ¶9. She also claims that the other named Defendants are “third party administrators/servicers” of the bank under 12 U.S.C. § 1867(c), a statute that regulates the extent to which activities outsourced to third parties by a “depository institution” are monitored and examined by the “appropriate Federal banking agency.” 12 U.S.C. § 1867(c) ; Proposed Am. Compl. ¶¶5-9, ECF No. 68-2. She alleges that, under this statute, “the services related to the GreenSky Installment Loan transaction are deemed to have been performed by the Bank itself on the Bank's own premises.” Proposed Am. Compl. ¶100, ECF No. 68-2. Other than these allegations, and the fact that the word Defendants now includes the bank, Ms. Bentley's Complaint contains no more information about the relationship of the bank to the...

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