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Farmer v. Illinois Power Co.

April 14, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge


I. Introduction and Background

On September 15, 2009 Plaintiff Marvin D. Farmer filed a one Count Complaint against Defendants Illinois Power Company, Central Illinois Public Service Company, and Ameren Corporation pursuant to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq. (Doc. 2). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have violated Plaintiff's rights under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by refusing to allow Plaintiff to contract for electric utility service without having Felicia Farmer, his estranged wife, on the account and by refusing to permit Felicia Farmer to contract without Plaintiff's name on the account. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he and Felicia Farmer were married but that he has been separated from her since December 1, 2006 (Id. at ¶ 10). Approximately two years before Plaintiff filed his Complaint, Felicia Farmer moved to Caseyville, Illinois and sought to transfer her electric service to her new address and applied for credit in her name only (Id. at ¶¶ 11-13). On approximately June 6, 2009, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants put his name on Felicia Farmer's account without his consent (Id.). Further, in February 2008, Plaintiff himself applied for credit with Defendants in his own name, but that Defendants later added Felicia Farmer's name to his account without consent (Id. at ¶ 14). While Defendants did remove Plaintiff's name from Felicia Farmer's account, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants refused to remove Felicia Farmer's name from his account until they were divorced (Id. at ¶ 21 & 23). Plaintiff maintains that Defendant's policy of putting spouses names on accounts amounts to a refusal to extend credit to each spouse in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

Subsequently, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. 17). Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff lacks standing as to claims involving Mrs. Farmer's account and that he has failed to state a cause of action for claims involving his own account. Plaintiff has filed a response to Defendants' motion (Doc. 19). Based on the following, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 17) and DISMISSES with prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6), the Court must look to the complaint to determine whether it satisfies the threshold pleading requirements under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 8. Rule 8 states that a complaint need only contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court held that Rule 8 requires a complaint to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In other words, the Supreme Court explained it was "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' " by providing "more than labels and conclusions," because "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do . . . ." Id. at 555-56 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S.---, --- 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Recently, in Iqbal, the Supreme Court made clear that the federal pleading standard under Rule 8 as discussed in its Twombly opinion applies "for all civil actions." Id. at ---, 129 S.Ct. at 1953. Iqbal identified the "two working principles" underlying the decision in Twombly: (1) "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice;" and (2) "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at ---,129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56).In short, a court should only assume to be true a complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations, and not its mere legal conclusions, when determining whether such allegations plausibly give rise to relief. Id. at ---, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

B. Analysis

1. Standing as to Claims Regarding Felicia Farmer's Utility Account

Defendants argue that Plaintiff Marvin D. Farmer lacks standing on his allegations regarding his name allegedly being placed on his wife, Felicia Farmer's account. Plaintiff has responded that the addition of his name on the account constituted a termination of the original contract, instead amounting to a modified contract which required both spouses. Plaintiff also contends that the allegation is an illustration of the policies of Defendants which are complained of in Plaintiff's Complaint.

However, the Court agrees that Plaintiff lacks standing on his claims regarding Felicia Farmer's account. Plaintiff lacks standing because he was not the applicant on that account. The EOCA prohibits discrimination against "applicants" of credit.*fn1 The Act defines an applicant as: "any person who applies to a creditor directly for an extension, renewal, or continuation of credit, or applies to a creditor indirectly by use of an existing credit plan for an amount exceeding a previously established credit limit." 15 U.S.C. § 1691a(b). While the federal regulations ("Regulation B") broaden the definition of "applicant" to include "any person who is or may become contractually liable regarding an extension of credit," the Seventh Circuit has questioned whether the definition can be construed that broadly. See Moran Foods, Inc. v. Mid-Atlantic Market Development Company, LLC., 476 F.3d 436, 441 (7th Cir. 2007) (questioning whether the statute could be interpreted to include a guarantor as an applicant). In any event, Plaintiff here is clearly not an applicant as he was not the individual who applied for credit with the electric company, rather in the case of his spouse's account, it was Felicia Farmer who applied for the account. While the Defendants later placed Plaintiff's name on Felicia Farmer's account, Plaintiff did not apply for Felicia Farmer's account.*fn2 Therefore, he is not an applicant within the definition of the statute and lacks standing to bring a claim with regards to Felicia Farmer's account.

2. Claims under 15 U.S.C. § 1691 and Regulation B

Defendants further claim that Plaintiff's claims in regards to his own account also fail as he has failed to state a claim ...

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