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GOODLOE v. NATIONAL WHOLESALE COMPANY

July 16, 2004.

MICHAEL J. GOODLOE d/b/a GTM-U.PEP CLUB, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL WHOLESALE COMPANY, INC., E-COMMERCE EXCHANGE, INC., MINOTOLA NATIONAL BANK, and AXIN FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARK FILIP, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Michael Goodloe ("Goodloe" or "Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, has sued National Wholesale Company, Inc. ("NWC"), E-Commerce Exchange, Inc. ("ECX"), Minotola National Bank ("Minotola"), and Axin Financial Services, Inc. ("Axin") (collectively "Defendants") regarding Goodloe's lease of NWC, ECX, and Minotola services from Axin. Goodloe leased the "Business Executive Package," a collection of business services including a consumer electronics dealership and order processing services, and also contracted for an OEM computer dealership, a dealership allowing retail customers to order certain computers through Goodloe.

Plaintiff's Complaint advances a variety of claims under federal and state law, including many claims that are facially insubstantial and frivolous. Although the Complaint is often unclear concerning damages, it appears that Plaintiff at most has paid several hundred dollars concerning the two leases in dispute (it most likely was less than $200), and that the total amount of money due under those leases was some six thousand dollars. (Plaintiff quickly closed bank accounts that were to be automatically debited for the lease payments, and it appears clear that no further monies beyond the initial payments have been collected.) Plaintiff nonetheless appears to claim, at a minimum, thirteen million dollars in damages, although the Complaint may actually allege damages millions of dollars in excess of that amount.

  Goodloe asserts the following claims: Counts I-II allege violations of the Sherman Act, Counts III-V allege violations of the Robinson-Patman Act, Count VI alleges violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Count VII alleges violation of the Lanham Act, Count VIII alleges violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, Count IX alleges violation of the Illinois Credit Agreements Act, Count X alleges violation of the Illinois Deceptive Practices Act, Count XI alleges an "unconscionable lease infringement" under the Illinois Uniform Commercial Code, Count XII alleges violation of the Illinois Business Opportunity Sales Law, Count XIII alleges violation of the Illinois Slander and Libel Act, Count XIV alleges violation of the Illinois Electronic Commerce Security Act, Count XV alleges violation of the Truth in Lending Act, Count XVI alleges violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and Count XVII alleges violation of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act ("RICO").

  Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff did not file a response to this motion, thereby waiving his right to do so under Local Rule 78.3.

  For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is granted as to all federal claims. The parties are also invited to brief the question of why the state law claims should not be dismissed without prejudice (so that Plaintiff may pursue them, if he chooses, in state court) because there is no plausible basis by which Plaintiff could recover in excess of the jurisdictional amount of $75,000.

  Background Facts

  Plaintiff originally filed this suit in October 2003 and the case was assigned to the Honorable Charles R. Norgle. In March 2004, the case was transferred to this Court.

  As Defendants have pointed out (D.E. 4 at 4-5), Goodloe has an extensive history of failed federal litigation, including cases dismissed sua sponte pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For example, in 2000, Plaintiff filed Goodloe v. Illinois Deparment of Corrections, 00-CV-681 (N.D. Ill.), in which the complaint was dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), with the dismissal counting against Plaintiff as one of the three "strikes" allowed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). In 2001, Plaintiff filed Goodloe v. Equip for Equality, 01-CV-50193 (N.D. Ill.); that suit also was dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), with Judge Reinhart specifying that the dismissal counted as Plaintiff's second strike under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Prior to these two suits, Plaintiff filed Goodloe v. Tucker, 97-CV-626 (S.D. Ill.), in which Plaintiff sued the Illinois Department of Corrections and 164 individuals. The court struck Goodloe's complaint sua sponte for failure to comply with Local Rule 8 and granted thirty days to amend. When Goodloe failed to file a conforming complaint, the court entered judgment in favor of the defendants. In Goodloe v. Illinois Department of Corrections, 93-CV-4229 (N.D. Ill.), Plaintiff sued the Illinois Department of Corrections and seven individuals. That suit was dismissed with leave to file an amended complaint, which Goodloe never did. Finally, in Goodloe v. Peters, 92-CV-1340 (C.D. Ill.), Plaintiff brought a § 1983 claim against thirteen individuals. That suit was dismissed when the district court granted an uncontested motion for summary judgment of the defendants.

  Defendants also note that Plaintiff has in this case failed to respond to their motion to dismiss. As a result, Defendants invite the Court to grant the motion, as it is "unopposed." (D.E. 21 at 1.) Although the Court will not grant the motion simply because it is unopposed, the Court agrees that the claims discussed below substantively fail.

  The Complaint

  Plaintiff's Complaint contains extensive amounts of "legalese" that often clouds things more than it clarifies. Nonetheless, reading the Complaint generously, consistent with Goodloe's pro se status, it appears that Plaintiff alleges the following facts.

  In summary, during October 2001, Goodloe received a letter from NWC that invited Plaintiff to represent NWC in the sale of consumer electronic goods. (Compl. ¶ 7; Compl. Ex. 1.A.) Goodloe contacted NWC after reading the literature and spoke with an unknown sales representative about obtaining the "NWC Business Executive Package." (Compl. ¶ 8.) At that time, Goodloe disclosed to the representative that he suffers from schizophrenia. (Id.) Upon hearing this, the NWC representative allegedly said that, due to Goodloe's mental illness, he was not sure whether Goodloe could lease with the company. (Id.)

  Later in October, 2001, Goodloe was contacted by an NWC sales representative who informed Goodloe that he would have to lease the Business Executive Package through NWC's partner — Axin — because of his limited income and schizophrenia. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Goodloe alleges that he indicated to the representative that he was going to execute a lease from a website that called for 24 monthly payments of $24.95, but that the sales representative said he would send other contracts. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-14.) These contracts allegedly extended the lease term from 24 to 36 months and increased the monthly lease payment from $24.95 to $32.95. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Goodloe also noted a new lease agreement for the Business Executive Package — a 48 month lease requiring monthly payments of $99.95. (Id.) Goodloe believed that the Business Executive Package had been offered for a one-time payment of $99.99. (Id.) The new leases were arranged so that Axin would buy the services from NWC, ECX, and Minotola, and then lease the services to Goodloe. (Compl. Exs. 4.A, 5.A.)

  In November 2001, Goodloe entered into the first lease agreement with Axin whereby Axin leased Goodloe NWC's Business Executive Package — consisting of one NWC wholesale electronics dealership, credit card processing software and a website. (Compl. ¶ 18.) The wholesale electronics dealership allowed Goodloe to sell consumer electronics from an NWC catalog. (Compl. Ex. 1.A at 1.) Later in November 2001, Goodloe entered into a second lease agreement with Axin whereby Axin leased to Goodloe an NWC Non-Exclusive OEM Advanced Computer Dealership for 36 months at $32.95 per month. (Compl. ¶ 19.) The OEM dealership allowed Goodloe to sell certain computer equipment that was available through NWC. Both leases provided that Axin would automatically debit Goodloe for payment each month through a bank account. (Compl. Exs. 4.A, 5.A.)

  In December 2001, Goodloe received the Business Executive Package literature and fifty business cards. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Goodloe alleges that he received fewer business cards than he should have and that the cards had typographical errors on them. (Id.) He also alleges that he spoke with customer service representatives of NWC and ECX about the typographical errors on various occasions and about alleged problems with an email account but these shortcomings were not corrected. (Compl. ¶ 21.) Goodloe further alleges that he complained to Defendants' website developer, Joseph Kilgannon, about Goodloe's website, but that requested changes were not made correctly. (Compl. ¶¶ 37-38, 40-42.)

  After being unsatisfied with the service he was receiving, Goodloe closed his bank account so that Axin could no longer withdraw the monthly lease payments. (Compl. ¶ 40.) In February 2002, Axin's Collection Manager, Trevor Krause, informed Goodloe that it would "damage Plaintiff's credibility" if he did not immediately pay the amounts due under the lease agreements. (Compl. ¶ 44.) In May 2002, Goodloe learned that the Axin reported the past due amounts owed under the lease agreements to two credit reporting agencies. (Compl. ¶ 45.)

  To recap the allegations in the complaint, Goodloe alleges that he received an offer to purchase the Business Executive Package for a one-time payment of $99.99 and to lease the OEM dealership for 24 months at $24.95 per month. The Defendants, after learning Goodloe's income level and status as a schizophrenic, refused to offer Goodloe these prices and instead offered to lease him the Business Executive Package for 48 months at $99.95 per month and to lease him the OEM dealership for 36 months at $32.95 per month. Goodloe agreed to the amended lease terms and entered into two leases with the Defendants. The Defendants failed to perform as promised under the lease agreements. Specifically, the website created for Goodloe's business contained typographical errors, the website did not contain a separate page for the OEM dealership, the business cards supplied by Defendants contained typographical errors, and Goodloe received fewer business cards than he was promised. Goodloe quickly stopped making lease payments by closing a bank account designated for automatic payments, and Axin reported the resulting delinquency to two credit reporting agencies. Goodloe alleges that Defendants conspired to ruin his business and reputation, and violated a number of federal and state statutes in doing so.

  Discussion

  I. Standard of Review

  When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Porter v. DiBlasio, 93 F.3d 301, 305 (7th Cir. 1996). Goodloe's complaint must be read generously because it is a pro se pleading. See Harris v. Greer, 750 F.2d 617, 618 (7th Cir. 1984); accord, e.g., Zarnes v. Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 289 (7th Cir. 1995). However, a "complaint which consists of conclusory allegations unsupported by ...


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