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Stoyanovich v. Fine Art Capital LLC

August 17, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sidney H. Stein, U.S. District Judge.


Zoran Stoyanovich brings this action against Fine Art Capital LLC, claiming that Fine Art's rejection of his loan application violated the notice provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1691, et seq. Stoyanovich and Fine Art have cross-moved pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for summary judgment on the issue of Fine Art's liability under ECOA. Because the undisputed facts show that Fine Art's rejection of Stoyanovich's loan application violated ECOA's notice provisions, Stoyanovich's motion for summary judgment is granted and Fine Art's cross-motion is denied.


The following facts are undisputed.*fn1 Stoyanovich is a resident of Columbus, Ohio and a professional violinist in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. (Plaintiff's Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts ("Pl.'s 56.1") ¶¶ 1-2.) Fine Art is a Delaware LLC in the business of making loans secured by fine art and musical instruments. (Pl's 56.1 ¶ 4, Defendant's Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statement of Material Facts ("Def.'s 56.1") ¶ 2.) In spring 2006, Stoyanovich contacted Barbara Chu -- a First Vice President at Fine Art -- and inquired into his eligibility for a loan secured by part of his musical instrument collection. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 5-7, Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 3, 6, 8.) In response to his inquiry and in accordance with Fine Art's loan application procedures, Chu sent Stoyanovich a "Borrower Information Request Package" that contained a six-page "Personal Financial Statement" form requesting detailed asset, income and employment information. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 8, Ex. 3; Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 5, 7.) Stoyanovich completed the form and returned it to Chu along with a list of instruments and violin bows, presumably the collateral offered to secure the loan. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 10-11, Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 7-8.)

Chu then made inquiries into Stoyanovich's background and ultimately concluded that Fine Art would not offer him a loan. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 12, Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 12-15.) Chu wrote Stoyanovich on June 15, 2006 that Fine Art was "unable to accommodate" Stoyanovich's request. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 14, Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 16*fn2 .) The letter did not, however, specify the basis for Fine Art's decision or inform Stoyanovich that he was entitled to such an explanation. (Id.) Less than one month later, Stoyanovich responded in a letter requesting a "written explanation" for Fine Art's denial of his request for credit. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 16-17, Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 17-18.) Chu replied on July 28, 2007, writing that Fine Art was "unable to consider your request because of credit-related information obtained from sources other than consumer reporting agencies." (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 18-19, Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 19-20.)

Stoyanovich then filed this action, alleging that Chu's letters failed to comply with the notice provisions of ECOA, 15 U.S.C. § 1691(d), because, inter alia, they did not provide a "specific reason" for Fine Art's decision to reject Stoyanovich's loan application. He requests damages for business losses, injury to his credit reputation, mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment; punitive damages; costs and attorney's fees. Following discovery proceedings on the issue of Fine Art's liability under ECOA, the parties have cross-moved for summary judgment on that issue.


A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only if the evidence shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265 (1986); LaFond v. Gen. Physics Serv. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 171 (2d Cir. 1995). An issue of fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986). When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court "is to resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought." Patterson v. County of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 219 (2d Cir. 2004); see also LaFond, 50 F.3d at 171.

Where, as here, both parties have moved for summary judgment, the same legal standards apply: "[E]ach party's motion must be examined on its own merits, and in each case all reasonable inferences must be drawn against the party whose motion is under consideration." Morales v. Quintel Entm't, Inc., 249 F.3d 115, 121 (2d Cir. 2001) (citing Schwabenbauer v. Bd. of Educ., 667 F.2d 305, 314 (2d Cir. 1981)).

B. Fine Art Did Not Comply with the Notice Requirements of ECOA

The relevant facts in this litigation are not in dispute. Rather, the parties contest whether these facts support Stoyanovich's claim that Fine Art did not comply with ECOA's notice requirements as a matter of law. The Court now turns to that question.

1. The Elements of a Violation of ECOA's Notice Provision

ECOA bars discrimination in the extension of credit on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or participation in a public assistance program. See 15 U.S.C. § 1691(a). In addition to its anti-discrimination provisions, ECOA also "establishes procedural requirements for extending credit and communicating with applicants." Davis v. U.S. Bancorp, 383 F.3d 761, 766 (8th Cir. 2004); see 15 U.S.C. § 1691(d). In relevant part, the statute provides that "[e]ach applicant against whom adverse action is taken shall be entitled to a statement of reasons for such action from the creditor." 15 U.S.C. § 1691(d)(2). The term "adverse action" is defined ...

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