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Maria Hausen and Rafael Blazquez v. Ps Illinois Trust

January 29, 2012

MARIA HAUSEN AND RAFAEL BLAZQUEZ, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PS ILLINOIS TRUST, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Maria Hausen and Rafael Blazquez have sued PS Illinois Trust (PS) for breach of contract, violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (ICFA), 815 ILCS 505/2, conversion, and fraud. The Court has jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. PS has moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendant's motion in part and denies it in part.

Background

The Court accepts the allegations in plaintiffs' complaint as true for purposes of resolving the motions to dismiss. See Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009).

Hausen and Blazquez are married citizens of Spain who spend part of each year working as visiting scholars at Northwestern University. They rented an apartment in Evanston, Illinois, but in December 2010 they decided to store the contents of their apartment in a self-storage facility before returning to Spain for an extended period.

Plaintiffs went to a storage facility owned by PS and told an employee that they needed a storage unit because they were returning to Spain. On December 27, 2010, they returned to the storage facility and spoke with another employee, again saying that they were leaving the United States for an extended period and that they needed a storage unit for all of the items in their one and one-half bedroom apartment. They decided to rent one of the facility's storage units for $155.70 per month.

The PS employee that Hausen and Blazquez met gave them a rental agreement, and they filled it out. The employee spent less than five minutes going over the provisions with plaintiffs, and they did not have enough time to read the entire agreement. The employee did not highlight or request that they read any of the lease provisions. Even though they had told the employee that they intended to store the contents of an entire apartment in the storage unit, the employee never pointed out that a provision of the rental agreement stated that plaintiffs could only store $5,000 worth of property in the unit.

Because they were returning to Spain in a few days, plaintiffs tried to list their address and telephone number in Spain as contact information on the rental agreement, but the PS employee insisted that they use a U.S. address and telephone number. Hausen and Blazquez put their temporary U.S. contact information on the rental agreement but told the employee that the only way to contact them would be via e-mail. The employee promised that PS would send all communications via e-mail.

Plaintiffs also signed an addendum providing them with $3,000 of insurance for their property in the storage unit. They expressed concern that the amount of coverage was insufficient, but the PS employee told them that the coverage was standard and the storage facility was safe.

At the same time that plaintiffs signed the rental agreement for the storage unit, they also authorized PS to automatically charge Blazquez's credit card every month to pay for it. On February 2, 2011, PS unsuccessfully attempted to charge Blazquez's card. Plaintiffs allege that any subsequent attempt to charge the credit card would have been successful, but PS did not try again after its first attempt was unsuccessful. PS did not e-mail plaintiffs to tell them of the payment problem as it had promised. Instead, PS sold all of plaintiffs' property to recover the $572 that PS claimed it was owed because of nonpayment in March.

PS Illinois never gave Hausen and Blazquez any notice of the nonpayment or the sale of their property. In late April, plaintiffs noticed that PS had not charged their credit card recently and called to find out why. A PS employee told them of the sale. Plaintiffs requested documents and records related to the nonpayment and sale, but PS has refused to provide any. In addition, PS has not told plaintiffs the amount it received from the sale of their property and has not delivered to them any amount it received in excess of $572.

Discussion

PS has moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), (3), (6). "When analyzing the sufficiency of a complaint, [the Court] construe[s] it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accept[s] well-pleaded facts as true, and draw[s] all inferences in the nonmoving party's favor." Fednav Int'l Ltd. v. Cont'l Ins. Co., 624 F.3d 834, 837 (7th Cir. 2010). A plaintiff "has stated a claim only if it has alleged enough facts to render the claim facially plausible, not just conceivable." Id.

PS argues that venue is improper because the rental agreement contains a forum selection clause requiring that plaintiffs bring any claims in small-claims court; Blazquez does not have standing to bring a breach of contract claim; Blazquez's fraud ...


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