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TORCIK v. CHASE MANHATTAN BANK

September 7, 2005.

PETR TORCIK, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CHASE MANHATTAN BANK, INC., and DOES 1-10, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERIC BLOCK, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Petr Torcik ("Torcik"), proceeding pro se, brings this diversity action against defendants, The Chase Manhattan Bank, Inc., and ten unnamed bank employees (collectively "Chase"), and raises claims of tortious interference with contractual relations and negligence. Chase moves for summary judgment on the ground that Torcik has failed to adduce sufficient evidence to establish essential elements of those claims. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.*fn1 BACKGROUND*fn2

  I

  On March 3, 1999, Vladamir Stepanik ("Stepanik") entered into a contract with CityNet Ltd. ("CityNet"), a Czech corporation. Under the contract, CityNet agreed to provide a $4 million line of credit, the proceeds of which were to be used "for business activities in connection with the development of the company ACTIVITY ECOP." Rosenbaum Aff., Ex. G.*fn3 Although later incorporated under New York law, the status of Activity ECOP at the time the contract was executed is unclear. Stepanik claims to have signed the contract "on behalf of Torcik's Activity ECOP" and "confirm[s] that Torcik was the primary party of interest of the contract." Stepanik Aff. ¶ 2.*fn4

  The contract with CityNet provided that "the debtor shall draw credit in a singular payment into a bank account, the number of which shall be communicated in writing to the creditor at the latest 30 days before the request for drawing of credit." Rosenbaum Aff., Ex. G. On November 13, 1999, Torcik and Stepanik went to a Chase branch in Staten Island to add Stepanik as a signatory to Torcik's account, which had been opened on September 7, 1999; the ostensible purpose of adding Stepanik to the account was to allow the proceeds of the CityNet contract to be deposited in the account.

  During his November 13 visit, Torcik gave his Social Security number to a Chase employee, who called a third-party verification service to confirm Torcik's identity. During the call, the employee misread the number; Torcik tried to correct her, but she cut him off. Torcik told the Chase employee his Social Security number was issued in Mississippi in 1998, the verification service told her that the number she had read was issued in Arizona in 1980. Because the information did not match, a notation that Torcik was a "fraud suspect" was placed in his account profile. As a result, Torcik's individual account was not converted to a joint account; Torcik also had problems using his debit card between November 13 and 23, 1999. On November 17, 1999, Chase sent Torcik a letter indicating that his account would be closed on November 29, 1999; however, the account remained open until Torcik closed it in August 2000.

  Torcik did not tell anyone at Chase about the CityNet contract when he opened his account. Moreover, Torcik did not tell anyone at Chase about the contract during his November 13 visit; he told the teller only that "we have an important matter, a business matter that we need to resolve today." Rosenbaum Aff., Ex. E, at 146-47.

  Jaroslav Post ("Post"), an official from CityNet, was with Torcik and Stepanik at the bank and heard the Chase employee accuse Torcik of fraud; he informed CityNet of the accusation. At Post's request, a CityNet executive, David Kopriva ("Kopriva"), came to New York to investigate. Before returning to the Czech Republic, Kopriva gave Stepanik a letter, which, in translation, read as follows:
[C]onsidering [the] limitations on your disposition right on [Torcik's account] at Chase Manhattan Bank and [b]earing in mind the bank's suspicion of the genuineness of your Social Security Card and considering the bank[']s internal suspicion of an attempt to defraud on your part, we hereby cancel the Contract on credit concluded in Prerov on May 3rd, 1999.
Pl.'s Aff. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. at 26. CityNet further claimed that, by virtue of the cancellation, Stepanik was required to pay a fine of $150,000; negotiation of a new contract was conditioned on payment of the fine. On April 20, 2000, Kopriva wrote Stepanik "to remind you that even despite having made repeated requests, I have not yet received from you damages of the amount of USD 150.000 . . . arising from the contract on provision of credit," id. at 27; the fine remains unpaid. Torcik has offered no evidence of the net profits that would have been realized had CityNet not cancelled the contract.

  II

  Torcik sued Chase for negligence, tortious interference with contractual relations, slander per se, libel per se and defamation of character; he alleged that "[a]s a result of the false assertion that Plaintiff was `fraud suspects' Plaintiff was unable to fulfill their contractual obligations with CityNet and etc., under the terms of their contract [sic]." Compl. ¶ 15. He seeks compensatory damages of "not less than $4,000,000" and punitive damages of "no less than $8,000,000." Id. at 6.

  Chase moved to dismiss the claims for slander, libel and defamation of character on the ground that they were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. On June 17, 2003, the Court granted the motion. See Mem. & Order of Jun. 17, 2003, at 3. Chase also moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the amount in controversy was less than $75,000. The Court initially denied the motion because, based on the allegations of the complaint, it could not "conclude to a `legal certainty' that [Torcik] would be entitled to less than the jurisdictional minimum of $75,000," id. at 4; however, when discovery revealed that Stepanik, not Torcik, was the party named in the contract with CityNet, the Court directed Torcik to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. See Mem. & Order of May 27, 2005.

  DISCUSSION

  I. Jurisdiction

  To dismiss for lack of diversity jurisdiction, the Court would have to conclude "to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount [of $75,000]." Wolde-Meskel v. Vocational Instruction Project Cmly. Servs., Inc., 166 F.3d 59, 63 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283 (1938)). As noted in the show-cause order, such a conclusion might have been possible here because it appeared that Torcik ...


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