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Fadia v. U-Haul

August 11, 2010

T. CAMILLE FADIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
U-HAUL, INC., OW NER/MANAGER, ROCHESTER, NY, U-HAUL, INC., ELSMERE, KY, U-HAUL, INC., ARIZONA HEADQUARTERS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This is an action in which Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, alleges that Defendants improperly confiscated a rental truck from her that contained her personal belongings, in violation of the parties' rental agreement, and refused to return her property for several months. Further, she contends that Defendants lost or stole certain items of her property. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint (Docket No. [#6]). For the reasons that follow, the application is granted and this action is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

The following information is distilled from the Complaint [#1] in this action, as supplemented by several submissions from Plaintiff.*fn1 On May 14, 2008, Plaintiff rented a truck from a U-Haul representative in Elsmere, Kentucky. According to documents submitted by Plaintiff, she agreed to return the truck to the same location on the following day, May 15, 2008. However, Plaintiff maintains that a U-Haul employee named Steve ("Steve") orally granted her an extension of the return date. On May 21, 2008, Plaintiff was operating the truck on Interstate 90, when it broke down, apparently somewhere west of Rochester, New York.*fn2 Plaintiff contacted U-Haul, and Steve granted her a further extension of time, until May 23, 2008, to return the truck. A mechanic repaired the truck, and Plaintiff resumed her journey. However, the truck broke down a second time, approximately fifty miles west of Rochester. A tow truck operator towed the truck to Rochester, where he left it in a "plaza." Meanwhile, Plaintiff checked into a motel somewhere nearby. Apparently, a mechanic repaired the truck and notified U-Haul, but not Plaintiff, of that fact.

On May 22, 2008, Plaintiff called the U-Haul rental facility in Elsmere, Kentucky, and spoke with a man named Tony ("Tony"), who said that a mechanic had filed a report with U-Haul, stating that the truck had been repaired and that Plaintiff was "on her way" to get the truck. Tony stated, though, that he had been unable to speak directly to the mechanic, and he asked Plaintiff where the truck was located. Plaintiff responded that she did not know, because it was no longer in the location where the tow truck driver had left it. Subsequently, Plaintiff suspected that the truck had been stolen. However, on or about May 27, 2008, a witness told Plaintiff that on May 22nd men in another U-Haul truck had come and taken the truck away. Eventually, on or about May 27, 2008, Plaintiff determined that the truck was at a U-Haul location on East Ridge Road in Rochester. However, U-Haul representatives at that location told Plaintiff that she could not have her possessions from the truck unless she paid what she owed on the truck rental, which they maintained was $740. Plaintiff indicated that the amount was incorrect, and she refused to pay.

Plaintiff later learned the circumstances under which the truck had been taken to the U-Haul facility in Rochester. Specifically, she maintains that a U-Haul employee in Arizona, named Tracy ("Tracy"), received a message from the mechanic who had repaired the truck, indicating that he had repaired the truck and that Plaintiff was on her way to get it. Since Plaintiff denied knowing the whereabouts of the truck to Tony, Tracy apparently suspected that Plaintiff had lost or stolen the truck. Tracy called Plaintiff's home telephone and directed her to return the truck, but Plaintiff never received the message until some time in June 2008, because she was traveling. In the meantime, Tracy contacted the U-Haul office in Rochester and directed it to locate and take possession of the truck, which it did.*fn3

In any event, since Plaintiff refused to pay the amount demanded by the U-Haul representatives in Rochester, the representatives refused to release her property. Plaintiff eventually filed a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Kentucky. On August 11, 2008, the Kentucky Attorney General's Office wrote to Plaintiff and informed her that it had forwarded her complaint to U-Haul. On or about September 16, 2008, Plaintiff returned to Rochester and received most of her property. However, certain items of property, such as a corporate book containing Plaintiff's corporate seal and blank stock certificates, were missing. At that time, the U-Haul representative presented Plaintiff with a new billing statement for $597, which was not itemized. Plaintiff refused to pay the bill, because she contends that she owed U-Haul only $386. Nevertheless, the representative allowed Plaintiff to remove her property, after a police officer intervened in the dispute.

On July 15, 2009, Plaintiff commenced this action. The Complaint describes the basis for federal subject-matter jurisdiction as follows: "Claim arises under Federal Law." (Complaint p. 1). The Complaint purports to state claims under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 ("FDCPA") U.S.C. § § 1692 et seq., and the federal Fair Credit Billing Act ("FCBA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1666. In that regard, Plaintiff states the federal basis for her claims as follows: "Fair Debt Collection Act says you cannot take all of a person's possessions as hostage. Fair Billing Credit Act says you have to show figures itemized -- where got amount from." (Complaint [#1] p. 4).

As for damages, Plaintiff states: "I want monetary [sic] for whatever it cost me to get my things back. For clothes I had to buy, because I was left with only the clothes on my back[.] Return Corporate books and stocks papers or pay me for. Pay for emotional distress and damages." Id. More specifically, the Complaint demands fifty thousand dollars in damages. Id. at p. 5 ("monetary relief -- $50,000."). However, in attachments to the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she sustained damages in excess of one hundred thousand dollars. Significantly, in that regard, Plaintiff alleges that her corporate book and corporate papers, which were lost or stolen, are worth one hundred thousand dollars.

Subsequently, Defendants filed the subject motion to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(b)(6). Defendants state that the Complaint is "fatally flawed since [Plaintiff's] claims are premised on statutes that have no applicability to Defendants." (Def. Memo of Law at 1). Defendants state that they are not covered by the FDCPA since they are not debt collectors. (Id. at 7) ("Since the debt Defendants were attempting to collect was their own, and not the debt of 'another,' Defendants are not proper defendants under the FDCPA."). Defendants also state that they are not covered by the FCBA, since the parties did not have an open-ended credit arrangement. (Id. at 8) ("The FCBA is only applicable to open-end credit transactions, and chiefly, to credit card accounts.") (citation omitted).

In response to the motion, Plaintiff does not specifically address the applicability of the FDCPA or FCBA. Instead, she insists more generally that she was wronged, and that Defendants violated "Federal and State laws." (Docket [#13] at 3). Plaintiff also indicates that Defendants violated her federal constitutional rights. (Id. at 6, 8, 10-13). Further, Plaintiff indicates that Defendants committed a breach of contract (Id. at 12) and a tort (Id. at 15). Essentially, Plaintiff maintains that she has some type of claim, and that the Court should decide what it is. (Id. at 20) ("I leave it up to Your Honor and the Court to [decide] . . . whether Federal and State laws do or do not apply to [Defendants].").

On May 20, 2010, the parties appeared before the undersigned for oral argument of the motion. At that time, the Court advised Plaintiff that she did not have a claim under federal law. The Court further advised Plaintiff that, although it may be that she had claims under state law, for breach of contract and conversion, it did not appear that her damages would amount to "$75,000, exclusive of interest and costs," as required by the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332.*fn4 Accordingly, the Court granted Plaintiff additional time, until August 1, 2010, to submit a supplemental affidavit, explaining how she met the $75,000. jurisdictional threshold.

On July 23, 2010, Plaintiff filed a supplemental affidavit, in which she contends that her damages against Defendants total $185,465.67. In that regard, Plaintiff states that she suffered $50,000. in damages, as a result of Defendants "willfully and maliciously taking my property without due process of law." Plaintiff lists such damages, even though the Court explained to her during oral argument that she could not maintain a claim for violation of her due process rights, since Defendants did not act under color of state law. Additionally, Plaintiff, who apparently produces and/or markets inspirational compact disks (CDs), states that she lost $100,000. in income, as a result of being unable to sell such CDs. As to this claim, ...


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