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Lopes v. Webster Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 17, 2018

MARCELO DE MIRANDA LOPES et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WEBSTER BANK, N.A., Defendant.

          RULING RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 32)

          Janet C. Hall, United States District Judge

         The plaintiffs, Marcelo de Miranda Lopes (“Lopes”) and American Trade and Investment Services Corporation (“American”), bring this breach of contract and unjust enrichment action against the defendant, Webster Bank, N.A. (“Webster Bank”). See Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. No. 1). Count One of the Complaint alleges that Webster Bank breached a contractual agreement with Lopes and American when it placed a hold on an American deposit account for 45 days. See id. at ¶¶ 10-38. Count Two alleges that, as a result of this breach of contract, Webster Bank was unjustly enriched. See Id. at ¶¶ 39-41. The plaintiffs allege that the 45-day hold caused American to go out of business and Lopes to suffer financial loss and damage to his reputation, and request money damages in the amount of $10, 200, 000. See Compl. at 7.

         Webster Bank now moves for summary judgment. See generally Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.'s Mot.”) (Doc. No. 32). In support of its Motion, Webster Bank argues that the contractual agreement between the parties allowed them to place a 45-day hold on the deposit account and, therefore, the hold was not a breach of contract. Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.'s Mem.”) (Doc. No. 34) at 19-23. Webster Bank further argues that the plaintiffs have no evidence that it derived any benefit from the 45-day hold and have, therefore, failed to create a genuine dispute of fact with respect to the unjust enrichment claim.[1] Id. at 23- 25.

         For the reasons that follow, Webster Bank's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 32) is granted.

         I. FACTS

         The facts in this case are largely undisputed. Lopes is a resident of Brazil and the sole owner of American. See Defendant's Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Facts (“Defendant's Statement”) (Doc. No. 33) at ¶ 4; Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendant's Statement of Facts (“Plaintiffs' Statement”) (Doc. No. 37) at ¶ 4. At all relevant times, Attorney Daniel Greenberg had an attorney/client relationship with Lopes and represented several U.S.-based companies on Lopes's behalf, including American. See Affidavit of Attorney Greenberg (“Greenberg Aff.”) (Doc. No. 40-11) at ¶¶ 7, 11, 15. In 2011, Attorney Greenberg communicated with Webster Bank about opening a business account for American, primarily through Calista Cafora (“Cafora”), Assistant Manager of the Webster Bank branch in Monroe, Connecticut. See id. at ¶¶ 13-17. Webster Bank asserts that the account was opened on July 22, 2011, see Defendant's Statement at ¶¶ 1-2, 10, while the plaintiffs assert that the account was opened on July 27, 2011, see Plaintiffs' Statement at ¶¶ 1-2, 10. Webster Bank asserts that it is Webster Bank's policy and practice to provide a document entitled Deposit Account Disclosures for Business Accounts (“Deposit Account Disclosures”) to all business account customers before they open an account, which document contains contract terms to which account owners are bound. See Defendant's Statement at ¶¶ 13-14; Exh. 3, Defendant's Statement (“Deposit Account Disclosures”) (Doc. No. 33-3) at 17-52. The plaintiffs emphatically deny ever receiving such a document. See Plaintiff's Statement at ¶¶ 13- 14. In pertinent part, “Deposit Account Disclosures for Business Accounts”[2] provides as follows:

Right to Refuse Any Deposit, to Close Any Account, or to Terminate Account Services. We reserve the right to refuse to accept your deposit, including a new account deposit, and to close your Account at any time, without notice, if we have sustained a loss or reasonably believe that we will be exposed to risk or loss, or for other lawful reasons. . . . We also reserve the right to refuse to offer any account service . . . or to terminate or freeze any of your Account services at any time. . . .
We reserve the right to freeze or hold your Account in the event of a dispute concerning the Account, or if we reasonably believe that we may be exposed to loss or risk if your Account is not frozen or held. . . . The hold may remain in place until dispute resolution, or until we are otherwise assured that we are not at risk by releasing the hold.
. . . .
YOUR ABILITY TO WITHDRAW FUNDS
. . . . When you make a deposit, the availability of funds may be delayed in accordance with funds availability laws (“Hold Period”). During the Hold Period, you may not withdraw these funds in cash, and we are not required to use the funds to pay checks drawn on your Account that have been presented for payment. If you need immediate availability from a deposit, please ask us when the funds will be available for withdrawal.
Not all checks will clear during the applicable Hold Period. You are responsible for returned items that have been credited to and withdrawn from your Account.
. . . .
Please Note: Funds That You Deposit By Check May Be Delayed For A Longer Period Under the Following Circumstances:
. We reasonably believe that a check you deposit will not be paid; . You deposit checks totaling more than $5, 000 on any one (1) day[.]

Deposit Account Disclosures at 7-8, 22.

         It is undisputed that, on July 26, 2011, Cafora sent an email to one of Greenberg's employees. In pertinent part, that email responded to the question, “[C]an you tell us what the cycle time will be for the money to be available?” as follows:

With checks deposited it will be 1 business day for local checks and 2 business days for non local (this is all based on our funds availability which goes off of the first 4 numbers of the routing number) It is in our disclosures, if you would like another I can give it to Daniel [Greenberg] when he stops by today just let me know.

Exh. 11, Defendant's Statement (Doc. No. 33-11) at 11.

         It is undisputed that, on July 27, 2011, several checks were deposited in American's Webster Bank account, totaling $18, 186.71. See Defendant's Statement at ¶ 18; Plaintiffs' Statement at ¶ 18. It is further undisputed that, on August 2, 2011, Webster Bank debited American's Webster Bank account $7, 533.25 because a check was returned. See Defendant's Statement at ¶ 19; Plaintiffs' Statement at ¶ 19. Thereafter, Webster Bank placed a hold on American's Webster Bank account that remained in effect until September 15, 2011. See Defendant's Statement at ¶ 22; Plaintiff's Statement at ¶ 22. Webster Bank asserts that the hold was placed on the account because “in American's very first deposit . . . the single largest item that was deposited . . . was returned immediately.” Def.'s Mem. at 22; see Defendant's Statement at ¶ 18; Plaintiffs' Statement at ¶ 18. On September 15, 2011, all the funds in the account were made available to American; Webster Bank did not withhold any portion of the funds for fees or other expenses. See Defendant's Statement at ¶ 23; Plaintiff's Statement at ¶ 23.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         On a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Wright v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2016). Once the moving party has met its burden, in order to defeat the motion, the nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, and present “such proof as would allow a reasonable juror to return a verdict in [its] favor, ” Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). “An issue of fact is genuine and material if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc., 841 F.3d 155, 162 (2d Cir. 2016).

         In assessing the record to determine whether there are disputed issues of material fact, the trial court must “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” LaFond v. Gen. PhysicsServs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 175 (2d Cir. 1995). “Where it is clear that no rational finder of fact ‘could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, ' summary judgment should be granted.” F.D.I.C. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). On the other hand, where ‚Äúreasonable minds could differ as to the import of the ...


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