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Goldberg v. 401 North Wabash Venture LLC

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 21, 2013

JACQUELINE GOLDBERG, Plaintiff,
v.
401 NORTH WABASH VENTURE LLC and TRUMP CHICAGO MANAGING MEMBER LLC, Defendants.

DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW ON PLAINTIFF'S CONSUMER FRAUD ACT CLAIM

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Defendants 401 North Wabash Venture LLC and Trump Chicago Managing Member LLC, by and through their attorneys, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a), respectfully submit this Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law on Plaintiff's Claim under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (the "Fraud Act").

LEGAL STANDARD

Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when "a party has been fully heard on an issue... [and] a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for that party on that issue." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). "In other words, the question is simply whether the evidence as a whole, when combined with all reasonable inferences permissibly drawn from that evidence, is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find in favor of the plaintiff. [A] mere scintilla' of evidence, however, will not suffice." Hall v. Forest River, Inc. , 536 F.3d 615, 619 (7th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted).

ARGUMENT

The Court has now ruled that Plaintiff's claim of "loss of use of funds" damages is out of this case. It also has ruled that the refund of Plaintiff's earnest money deposits does not constitute "damages" but rather is an equitable remedy that provides no right to a trial by jury. In light of these two rulings, the only alleged "damages" remaining in the case are interest, attorneys' fees, punitive damages, and damages for "emotional distress, aggravation, delays, [and] inconveniences" (collectively, "emotional damages").

Yet, explained below, a plaintiff must prove actual economic damages in order to state a claim under the Fraud Act. Under well-established Illinois law, none of Plaintiff's remaining "damages" satisfies the Fraud Act's "actual damages" requirement. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Fraud Act claim fails as a matter of law.

I. ACTUAL ECONOMIC DAMAGES ARE REQUIRED UNDER THE FRAUD ACT

Actual damages are an essential element under the Fraud Act. Thrasher-Lyon v. Illinois Farmers Ins. Co. , 861 F.Supp.2d 898, 912 (N.D. Ill. 2012); Xydakis v. Target, Inc. , 333 F.Supp.2d 686, 688 (N.D. Ill. 2004). For purposes of the Fraud Act, "actual damages" is synonymous with "compensatory damages." Greisz v. Household Bank (Illinois) , 8 F.Supp.2d 1031, 1043 (N.D. Ill. 1998) aff'd sub nom. Greisz v. Household Bank (Illinois), N.A. , 176 F.3d 1012 (7th Cir. 1999). This Court confirmed the same during the May 2, 2013 Final Pretrial Conference in this matter. (Dkt. No. 307, at 95 ("[U]nder the law, the compensatory [damages] and actual [damages] are the same."); id. at 96 ("Compensatory [damages] and actual [damages] are the same.").)

Moreover, "actual damages" under the Fraud Act must arise from "purely economic injuries." Thrasher , 861 F.Supp.2d at 912-13 (emphasis added; quoting Cooney v. Chi. Pub. Schs. , 407 Ill.App.3d 358, 943 N.E.2d 23, 31 (1st Dist. 2010)); accord Morris v. Harvey Cycle & Camper, Inc. , 392 Ill.App.3d 399, 402-03, 911 N.E.2d 1049, 1053-54 (1st Dist. 2009) ("The Consumer Fraud Act provides remedies for purely economic injuries.").

II. NONE OF PLAINTIFF'S PURPORTED DAMAGES CONSTITUTES ACTUAL DAMAGES UNDER THE FRAUD ACT

With Plaintiff's "loss of use of funds" damages claim now out of the case, only the following requests for monetary relief remain: (a) the return of her earnest money deposits; (b) interest, attorneys' fees and costs; (c) punitive damages; and (d) emotional damages. As will now be explained, none of these constitutes "actual damages" - which, as demonstrated above, are required to state a claim under the Fraud Act.

A. Plaintiff's Earnest Money Deposits Are Not "Actual Damages"

The Court's May 1, 2013 ruling (Dkt. No. 298) held that a refund of Plaintiff's earnest money deposits is equitable relief, i.e., not the kind of "monetary damages... which would entitle her to ...


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