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Robinson v. Citibank

July 29, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gershon, United States District Judge:


Pro se plaintiff Pearl Robinson brings this action against defendant Citibank, South Dakota, N.A. ("Citibank"),*fn1 and alleges that she suffered financial and emotional injuries as a result of defendant's false allegations against her regarding certain disputed transactions charged to her credit card account. Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking: (1) dismissal of all of plaintiff's claims against it; and (2) an order granting its counterclaim against plaintiff for an outstanding balance owed to the company.


Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are undisputed.

In June 1996, plaintiff Robinson opened a credit card account with Sears MasterCard. In November 2003, defendant Citibank purchased the account and became its issuer and administrator. At all times, plaintiff's use of the account was subject to the terms of a Card Agreement that was amended from time to time.

On March 26, 2005, plaintiff checked into the Holiday Inn in Deland, Florida. She stayed one night at the hotel and used her Sears MasterCard on March 27, 2005 to pay the $66.38 bill for her stay. The next day, on March 28, 2005, defendant posted the transaction onto plaintiff's account statement, charging her for that exact amount (the "March 28 transaction").

In late April 2005 or early May 2005, plaintiff received a billing statement dated April 20, 2005, indicating a total outstanding balance of $866.05. In addition to other purchases made by plaintiff, that balance included the March 28 transaction as well as another transaction at the same Holiday Inn in the amount of $132.76, charged by the Holiday Inn on March 28, 2005 and posted by defendant on March 29, 2008 (the "March 29 transaction"). Plaintiff thereafter contacted Citibank's customer service department regarding the error, but for reasons that are not in the record, disputed only $66.36 of the $132.76 charged to her account for the March 29 transaction rather than the entire amount.*fn2

By letter dated May 17, 2005, defendant responded to plaintiff's dispute inquiry regarding the transaction, stating in part:

You can assist me with this investigation for $66.36 by promptly reviewing, completing, and returning this information to my attention. If I have not received your valuable response within 10 days of your receipt of this letter, I will assume the charge is correct and rebill your account.

The first important step to resolving this matter is for you to contact the merchant to determine the reason for the difference in the amount billed to your account and to request a credit slip.

The letter further requests that plaintiff "check and complete" the bottom half of the letter, which asks plaintiff to provide more specific information about the errant charge and for appropriate documentation to help process the dispute inquiry.*fn3 On the same date as the letter, defendant also posted to plaintiff's account a conditional credit in the amount of $66.36. That amount, along with a payment made by plaintiff on May 18, 2005 in the amount of $733.29 for other purchases, was credited against plaintiff's previous balance of $866.05, resulting in a new balance of $66.40, as of the May 20, 2005 billing statement. Plaintiff's payment of $733.29 reflects the total amount that she would have owed to defendant if the $132.76 charge had not been mistakenly posted to her account.

Plaintiff's next billing statement, dated June 20, 2005, reflected further activity on her account with respect to the March 28 and 29 transactions. On May 20, 2005, plaintiff received a credit from the Holiday Inn in the amount of $132.76, an amount equal to and representing the March 29 transaction charged in error. Defendant applied the credit in full against plaintiff's outstanding balance. Then, on May 25, 2005, defendant posted a "Credit Balance Refund," charging plaintiff's account in the amount of $66.36.*fn4

Finally, on June 16, 2005, because of plaintiff's failure to respond to defendant's inquiries regarding her partial dispute of the March 29 transaction, defendant reversed the conditional credit of $66.36 originally issued on May 17, 2005 and charged the full amount back onto plaintiff's account. These charges and credits, plus other purchases made by plaintiff, reflected an outstanding balance of $91.12 as of this statement.

Also during this billing period, though not reflected on the billing statement, plaintiff received from defendant a check dated May 26, 2005 in the amount of $66.36. The front of the check included a printed note ...

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