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John D. Pettineo v. Ge Money Bank

January 10, 2011

JOHN D. PETTINEO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GE MONEY BANK,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.

MEMORANDUM

GE Money Bank denied Plaintiff John Pettineo's application for a credit card. Pettineo seeks equitable relief and damages under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, alleging that this denial and a disclosure at the bottom of a form letter he received from the bank violate federal law. GE Money Bank moves for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons that follow, this motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff John D. Pettineo unsuccessfully tried to use his ShopNBC credit card in October of 2008. (Compl. ¶ 9.) After the card was denied, Pettineo called ShopNBC's customer service department and discovered that the card had been canceled for inactivity. (Id.) Pettineo learned that he could not reopen his old account, but would have to apply to open a new account. (Id.)

Defendant GE Money Bank ("GE") underwrote Pettineo's ShopNBC credit card. (Id.; see also Answer ¶ 9.) Pettineo called GE's customer service department and orally applied for another ShopNBC credit card. (Compl. ¶ 10.) He received a written denial from GE on December 23, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 11.) In this letter, GE offered three reasons for the denial: (1) Pettineo's past due bankcards; (2) his revolving trades with past due balances; and (3) his bank revolving accounts with past due balances. (Compl. Ex. A [GE Letter].) Pettineo alleges GE issued the denial "at least in part due to previous exercise of his rights under the Consumer Credit Protection Act." (Id. at ¶ 25.)

GE's letter to Pettineo features a disclosure reciting various non-discrimination policies the Equal Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA") requires creditors to observe. (GE Letter.) The text of this disclosure reads as follows:

ALL PERSONS TO WHOM THIS LETTER IS ADDRESSED:

The federal equal credit opportunity act prohibits creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age (provided the applicant has the capacity to enter into a binding contract), because all or part of the applicant's income derives from any public assistance program, or because the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Protection Act. The federal agency that administers compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act for the creditor identified on the front page of this letter is shown below. (GE Letter.) The letter also provides contact information for the different government agencies which oversee the ECOA compliance of GE Money Bank, GE Capital Financial, Inc., and General Electric Capital Corporation. (Id.) The disclosure and federal agency contacts are located toward the bottom of the letter, typed in "a type set of eight (8) point or smaller," rendering them "practically illegible" to Pettineo. (Compl. ¶ 18.) Pettineo claims he "required magnification" to read the disclosure. (Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss 7.)

In his response, Pettineo observes that GE no longer issues the form letter he received. (Id. at 4.) In particular, Pettineo claims that GE has changed "the size of the font and print of the required notice of consumer's rights." (Id.) He contends that GE was aware the letter it sent to him was "dirty, or they would have never changed it." (Id.)

Pettineo seeks over $150,000 to compensate him for "severe anxiety attacks" he suffered due to GE's conduct and his "pursuit of justice." (Compl. ¶ 25.) He also seeks an injunction barring GE from issuing "any further correspondence which fails to clearly and conspicuously reveal the disclosure language" at issue, punitive damages, and costs. (Id.) In addition, Pettineo requests "the opportunity to discuss potential class action status, remedy and treatment with competent counsel and [to] amend [his] Complaint accordingly under FRCP 23." (Id.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits motions for judgment on the pleadings after pleadings are closed and "within such time as not to delay the trial." Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate where the movant shows "that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Undertaking this analysis, courts view the facts in the pleadings and inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2005). Courts deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings generally may consider indisputably authentic documents attached to the pleadings which are integral to the plaintiff's claims. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004); Atiyeh v. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co. of Hartford, Civ. A. No. 07-4798, 2010 WL 3825708, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 27, 2010).

The Court will construe Pettineo's complaint liberally, as he brings this action pro se. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Smith v. Sch. Dist. of ...


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