The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant
River Oaks Lincoln-Mercury, Inc. ("River Oaks") for summary
judgment in its favor on the complaint of Plaintiff April Miller.
For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.
River Oaks is a Lincoln-Mercury dealership that sells both new
and used cars to consumers. In September 2003, Miller went to
River Oaks in response to a coupon she received in the mail. It
stated that she was approved to purchase a car if she presented
documents such as a driver's license, proof of residency, and a
utility bill. Once at River Oaks, Miller spoke with a saleswoman named
Bridget Powell. After looking at several different models, Miller
settled on a 1997 Ford Taurus. She provided information for a
credit application and signed a retail installment contract for
the car. The contract specified that Miller would trade in her
current car, a Saturn, for a $500 credit toward the purchase
price. She also signed a contract rider, which stated that "[t]he
parties intend that this contract will be assigned by [River
Oaks] to a sales finance agency of [River Oaks'] choice."
According to Miller, before she left the dealership, she asked
Powell if she had financing for the car. Powell responded that
Miller would not be able to leave the lot in the Taurus if she
wasn't financed. Miller left her Saturn at River Oaks and
departed in the Taurus.
River Oaks then submitted Miller's application to several
potential creditors. Each notified River Oaks that they would not
extend credit to Miller, but apparently only one notified Miller
herself. About one month after Miller's first visit to the
dealership, she was contacted by River Oaks and informed that her
financing had not gone through. She returned to the dealership,
and the parties executed another sales contract. For this one,
River Oaks increased the trade-in allowance to $1000 but now
required Miller to pay a $600 down payment. Because Miller did
not have $600 to pay, she provided River Oaks with two postdated checks for the amount.
By October 24, Miller returned with a combination of cash and
money orders totaling $600.
Over the ensuing three weeks, Miller had some phone contact
with River Oaks employees. On November 10, 2003, River Oaks sent
Miller a letter at her home address stating that she would be
reported as having stolen the car if she did not return it to the
dealership within 48 hours of receiving the letter. It also
stated that Miller had been informed that she could not receive
financing for the car. When she received the letter, Miller
forwarded it to her counsel and informed River Oaks that any
further attempts to communicate with her would need to be
directed to her attorney.
Despite the breakdown in the parties' relations, River Oaks
continued to seek financing on Miller's behalf and ultimately
succeeded in doing so in May 2004, seven months after the
execution of the second sales contract. At this time, Miller
still retained possession of the Taurus. On September 17, 2004,
Miller filed the instant suit, alleging violations of the Equal
Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA") and the Illinois Consumer Fraud
Act ("ICFA") as well as common-law fraud.
River Oaks apparently had made good on its threat to report the
Taurus as stolen, because Miller was arrested for possession of a
stolen vehicle during a traffic stop shortly after the complaint
was filed. The police returned the Taurus to River Oaks,
whereupon River Oaks returned Miller's Saturn and $600 down
payment to her. The parties have completed discovery, and River Oaks now moves
for summary judgment on all counts of the complaint.*fn1
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that
no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). The burden
then shifts to the nonmoving party to show through specific
evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which
the nonmovant bears the burden of proof at trial. Id. The
nonmovant may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or
upon conclusory statements in affidavits; it must go beyond the
pleadings and support its contentions with proper documentary
evidence. Id. The court considers the record as a whole and draws
all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
party opposing the motion. Bay v. Cassens Transport Co.,
212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). A genuine issue of material fact
exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596,
599 (7th Cir. 2000); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). With these principles in mind, we consider the
The ECOA places certain obligations on creditors, a group
defined to include persons who regularly arrange for the
extension, renewal, or continuation of credit.
15 U.S.C. § 1691a(e). Under the ECOA, an adverse action occurs with respect
to a credit applicant when credit is denied or revoked, when the
terms of an existing credit arrangement change, or when a
creditor refuses to grant credit in substantially the amount or
according to the terms requested by the credit applicant.
15 U.S.C. § 1691(d)(6). When adverse action is taken against a
credit applicant, the creditor must provide the applicant with a
statement of reasons why the action occurred.
15 U.S.C. § 1691(d)(2). Unless the creditor acts on fewer than 150 credit
applications per year, the statement must be in writing.
15 U.S.C. § 1691(d)(2), (5). Failure to comply with these
requirements exposes the creditor to liability for actual as well
as punitive damages. 15 U.S.C. § 1691e(a), (b). It is undisputed in this case that Miller was twice denied
credit with respect to her purchase of the Taurus. It is
similarly undisputed that River Oaks did not provide her with a
written statement of reasons why she was denied credit. River
Oaks contends that, because it forwarded Miller's credit request
to other parties, it was not a creditor within the meaning of the
ECOA. As a result, it argues, it had no legal duty to supply
Miller with the reasons for the denials. River Oaks concedes that
it may have participated in the credit decision made with respect
to the second ...