FACTA Class Action Defense Cases–Pezl v. Amore Mio: Illinois Federal Court Denies Class Action Certification/Grants Defense Summary Judgment In FACTA Class Action Because FCRA Does Not Cover Corporations

Dec 3, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

FACTA Class Action Alleging Defendant Printed more than Last Five Numbers of Credit Card on Customer Receipt not Entitled to Class Action Treatment because Plaintiff Utilized Business Card for Business Purposes and Corporations do not have Private Rights of Action under FCRA Illinois Federal Court Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action in Illinois state court against Amore Mio alleging violations of the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), which is part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); specifically, the class action complaint alleged that plaintiff used his business credit card at an Amore Mio Restaurant and received a credit card receipt that contained more than the last five digits of his credit card number in violation of FACTA. Pezl v. Amore Mio, Inc., 259 F.R.D. 344, 345 (N.D.Ill. 2009). The original class action complaint was filed by plaintiff’s business, CE Design, but an amended class action complaint substituted in plaintiff as an individual in place of his business. Id., at 345-46. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court, id., at 345. Plaintiff moved the district court to certify the litigation as a class action; defense attorneys opposed class action treatment and moved for summary judgment. Id., at 346. The district court denied plaintiff’s motion for class certification and granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment. In ruling on the motions, the district court noted that class action certification generally should be determined prior to addressing the merits, see id., at 346 n.4, so the court began by analyzing plaintiff’s request for class action treatment.

The federal court readily concluded that the numerosity test of Rule 23(a)(1) had been met because the putative class contained thousands of members. See Pezl, at 346. The district court also easily found that the commonality requirement of Rule 23(a)(2) had been satisfied because the “common nucleus of operative fact” involved defendant’s “standardized conduct” of allegedly “printing of receipts in violation of FACTA.” See id., at 346-47. But the court found that plaintiff failed to satisfy the typicality test of Rule 23(a)(3) because of the existence of “defenses particular to the named plaintiff” – specifically, that plaintiff’s claim was “based on a credit card number belonging to a corporation,” id., at 347. As previously noted, plaintiff used a business credit card to pay for a transaction that “was for business purposes,” id. The FCRA, however, excludes business transactions; the FCRA provides for liability to a “consumer,” which is defined as “an individual.” Id. (citations omitted). Plaintiff’s business therefore did not have a private right of action under the FCRA, id. The district court rejected plaintiff’s argument that FACTA claims may be treated differently, holding that “only consumer cardholders have a private right of action under FACTA.” Id., at 347-48 (citation omitted). Accordingly, plaintiff’s claims were not “typical” of the putative class and so the complaint did not warrant class action certification. Id., at 348. (For the same reasons, the federal court additionally found that plaintiff failed to satisfy the adequate representation test of Rule 23(a)(4). See id., at 348 n.8.)

Turning to defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the federal court held that because corporations may not pursue private rights of action under the FCRA, plaintiff’s claims failed as a matter of law. See Pezl, at 348-49. Accordingly, the district court denied plaintiff’s motion for class certification, and granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Id., at 349.

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