If you’re a lawyer in New York City, you know a civil lawyer’s dream is a good case with a Bronx jury. The borough is notoriously liberal with doling out money to injured people – so much so that Bronx civil juries awarded $80 million in 2011 to people injured in various forms.
So it is any wonder that when a consumer sues credit card issuer FIA Card Services (they used to be called MBNA) in Bronx state court for defamation, the issuer will do anything possible to “move that case” (say it like the people at Extreme Makeover Home Edition do when they say “move that bus” – it’s much more entertaining)?
It all started when FIA sued Maria Gonzalez-Blanco in the Bronx and got a default judgment. Apparently the default was set aside, and FIA was ordered by the court to voluntarily dismiss their case.
Ask any lawyer – it takes a single piece of paper with about 10 lines of writing on it to vacate a default. As a credit card issuer that sues thousands of people each month, I’m betting the lawyers for FIA even had a form for it.
Nonetheless, it took FIA five years to vacate the default against Ms. Gonzalez-Blanco. She sued, claiming that her employment opportunities were damaged and that she was defamed when information about the default judgment was reported to credit reporting agencies.
If I’m a lawyer for FIA, I’m going to fall on my sword and settle this case quickly. Five years to file a piece of paper and comply with a judge’s order? I don’t see that going well for them.
Instead, FIA tries to get the case out of state court and into federal court based on an assertion that it’s really a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Ms. Gonzalez-Blanco sued for defamation – a cause of action under state law, but the federal court takes the case over.
FIA then tries to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. Shortly thereafter, the federal court sends the case back to Supreme Court, Bronx County because it had no jurisdiction to hear the case.
Now, after losing the battle, FIA should issue a mea culpa and get on with it. Right? Wrong.
Now they try to remove the case because of diversity, which basically means that all of the plaintiffs (here, there’s only one) are in different states than all of the defendants.
Two problems with that. First, FIA never made that argument the first time around. The court wisely denied the motion on that basis because if you make what’s called a motion for reconsideration, you must have brought up the issue the first time around.
The second problem was that the other defendant, FIA’s lawyers at Goldman & Warshaw P.C. has its principal place of business in New York. In other words, the plaintiff and the defendant reside for legal purposes in the same state.
What was FIA thinking? First it botches a simple order for five years, then it bumbles through requests that a recent law graduate would get right.
Maybe FIA would just try anything to get out of a Bronx state courthouse.
Image credit: wallyg