Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tully vs Citibank: Credit card debt collection claim is breach of contract claim

Jack Tully v. Citibank (South Dakota), N.A., 173 S.W.3d 212 (Tex.App. - Texarkana 2005, no pet.)
 
Significance of the Tully v. Citibank case: What is is proper legal theory for collection and what must the creditor prove?  

In Tully v Citibank, a summary judgment in favor of Citibank was reversed on all three theories on which the motion was based (albeit for different reasons).

Breach of contract cause of action 

This  claim failed on the merits because there was no evidence on an agrement on interest rates; wherefore the bank could not meet the summary judgment standard on the first element of a viable breach of contract claim. Interest rates are one essential element of a contract involving the loaning of money.

Noncontract theories

Citibank's attorney, Anh Regent, had also pleaded sworn account and quantum meruit. Summary judgment on those theories was overturned for purely legal (rather than evidence-based) reasons:

A credit card claim is not viable as a sworn account claim because no good or services are sold by the creditor to the debtor; and the quantum meruit claim could not succeed because the presence of the contract (in the form of Citibank's cardmember agreement, albeit on without interest rate term) precluded recovery under an equitable theory because the latter are only available in the absence of a contract. -- > Equitable relief not available when legal remedy available for breach of contract.

Other rerversible error 

Attorney’s fees on appeal were not conditioned on unsuccessful appeal by consumer (i.e. successful defense of the judgment rendered in the bank’s favor) as required; and dismissal of Tully's conterclaim for usury was improper also because Citibank had not disproven that claim. Even though Citibank's home state, South Dakota, does not have usury limits on interest, another limitation on interest still applied: The rate or rates must be authorized by the parties' agreement that governs the account.

Disposition on appeal 

Because none of the legal theories on which Citibank had moved for summary judgment could support the judgment (account stated was not pleaded), it was reversed, and the case was sent back to the court that had entered the faulty judgment.

The appeal was taken from a summary judgment in favor of Citibank; not from a bench trial resulting in a final judgment. Therefore, upon its reversal as improperly granted, the appellate court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. The court could not render judgment for Tully because he had not cross-moved for summary judgment in his favor.

CITE FOR THE OPINION ISSUED BY THE COURT OF APPEALS IN THIS CASE

Tully v. Citibank (South Dakota), N.A., 173 S.W.3d 212, 216 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 2005, no pet.)



Docket sheet for Cause No. 06-05-00027-CV on the Texarkana Court of Appeals' web site, which has link to on-line HTML version of the opinion in Tully v Citibank (South Dakota). N.A. by Justice Carter.

Tully v Citibank (South Dakota) N.A. - Appellate Docket Sheet 


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