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American Express Bank v. Rutkowski

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 4, 2017

AMERICAN EXPRESS BANK, FSB
v.
KRZYSZTOF RUTKOWSKI ET AL.

          Argued April 24

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of New Britain, Hon. Joseph M. Shortall, judge trial referee [summary judgment as to liability]; Wiese, J. [judgment].

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for, inter alia, breach of a credit card agreement, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain, where the defendants were defaulted for failure to plead; thereafter, the court, Abrams, J., granted the defendants' motion to open the judgment; subsequently, the court, Hon. Joseph M. Shortall, judge trial referee, granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to liability; thereafter, following a hearing in damages, the court, Wiese, J., rendered judgment for the plaintiff, from which the defendants appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Scott M. Schwartz, for the appellants (defendants).

          Erica Gesing, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Sheldon, Beach and Sheridan, Js.

         Syllabus

         The defendants appealed from the trial court's judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff in connection with the plaintiff's action to recover for the defendants' breach of a contractual credit agreement. The defendants opened a credit card account with the plaintiff, were mailed a credit card and card member agreement, used the account to pay for various goods and services, and received monthly billing statements from the plaintiff. When the defendants failed to make payments on the account, the plaintiff closed the account, which had a balance of $182, 367.29. In opposing the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, the defendants asserted, inter alia, that the plaintiff's claim was barred by the statute of frauds (§ 52-550 [a] [6]), which bars civil actions upon any agreement for a loan in excess of $50, 000 unless the agreement is written and signed by the party to be charged. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment as to liability and, following a hearing in damages, rendered judgment for the plaintiff for the full amount of the balance, plus costs. On appeal to this court, the defendants claimed that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment on the issue of liability because the credit card agreement constituted a loan under the statute of frauds, and, therefore, enforcement of the agreement was barred in the absence of a writing signed by the defendants. Held that the trial court properly granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment because the present action was not barred by the statute of frauds: the plaintiff's claim for breach of a contractual credit agreement was not related to any agreement for a loan that exceeded $50, 000 because the underlying agreement was not a loan within the meaning of § 52-550 (a) (6); furthermore, the defendants were never given a sum of more than $50, 000 by the plaintiff but, rather, were able to make third party transactions in varying amounts through the use of the credit card account.

          OPINION

          SHERIDAN, J.

         The defendants, Krzysztof Rutkowski and Tri-City Trading, LLC, appeal from the judgment rendered by the trial court in favor of the plaintiff, American Express Bank, FSB. On appeal, the defendants claim that the court improperly rendered summary judgment as to liability on the plaintiff's claim of breach of a contractual credit agreement because the statute of frauds, General Statutes § 52-550 (a) (6), bars enforcement of the agreement. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. The defendants opened a credit card account with the plaintiff on February 26, 2004. Upon opening the account, the defendants were mailed a credit card along with a copy of the card member agreement. The defendants used the credit card account to pay for various goods and services and received monthly billing statements from the plaintiff. The defendants did not object to the balances shown as due and owing on the monthly statements provided by the plaintiff. Following the defendants' failure to make payments on the credit card account, the plaintiff closed the account with a remaining balance due and owing of $182, 367.29.

         On August 15, 2013, the plaintiff commenced the present action against the defendants. The amended complaint filed on December 20, 2013, alleged one count of breach of a contractual credit agreement (count one) and one count of unjust enrichment (count two).[1] The defendants filed an answer denying the allegations of the complaint and alleging special defenses claiming inter alia, that the plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of frauds, § 52-550 (a) (6).

         The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment on both counts on August 13, 2015. The court, Hon. Joseph M. Shortall, judge trial referee, found that the statute of frauds did not bar the plaintiff's claim, there was no genuine issue of material fact, and thus the plaintiff was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on count one as to liability only.[2] Following a hearing in damages, the court, Wiese, J., rendered judgment for the plaintiff on ...


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