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Graham v. Star USA Federal Credit Union

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

February 14, 2019

LANTA GRAHAM, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STAR USA FEDERAL CREDIT UNION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider.[1] (ECF No. 30.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Court DENIES the motion. (ECF No. 30.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         In or about April 2014, Plaintiff's daughter, Eula Russell (“Russell”) sought to purchase a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic from White Auto Sales in Summersville, West Virginia. (See ECF No. 1-1 at 2-3, ¶¶ 5-11 (Compl.).) White Auto Sales arranged for Russell to receive financing for the vehicle from Defendant Star USA Federal Credit Union (“Star Credit Union”), with her father Plainiff Lanta Graham (“Graham”) acting as a co-signer. (Id. at 3, ¶ 6.) However, the car loan originated in Graham's name only. (See ECF No. 4 at 13-15 (Loan Agreement Attached to Answer).) Nevertheless, Graham and Russell state that Russell made the monthly payments on the vehicle and paid for and carried the insurance for the vehicle. (See ECF No. 1-1 at 3, ¶¶ 9-10.)

         The vehicle was subsequently repossessed in July 2016 and ultimately sold in April 2017.[2] (See Id. at 3, 5 ¶¶ 15, 24.) On January 18, 2018, Russell and Graham filed this action in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia, against Star Credit Union alleging the following causes of action: failure to provide notice to co-signer (Count I); violation of the Truth-in-Lending Act (“TILA”) (Count II); illegal debt collection (Count III); and commercially unreasonable disposition of an automobile (Count IV). (See ECF No. 1-1.) On March 14, 2018, Star Credit Union timely removed this action to this Court invoking the Court's federal question jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1.)

         On April 9, 2018, Star Credit Union filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. (ECF No. 5.) In a Memorandum Opinion and Order dated October 5, 2018, this Court granted in part and denied in part the motion. (ECF No. 23.) Specifically, the Court granted the motion insofar as it requested dismissal of Russell as a plaintiff for lack of standing, dismissal of Counts I, II, and III in their entirety, and dismissal of Count IV insofar as it pertained to the failure to issue a second notice of disposition of collateral claim. (See Id. at 15-16.) The Court further denied in part the motion insofar as it requested dismissal of Count IV's allegations pertaining to the price Star Credit Union sold the vehicle for. (See Id. at 16.) On October 24, 2018, Graham filed the present motion to reconsider the portion of the Court's ruling dismissing Count I of the Complaint. (ECF No. 30.) Star Credit Union timely responded to the motion, (ECF No. 34), and Graham timely replied. (ECF No. 35.) As such, the motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs reconsideration of interlocutory orders and opinions. See Fayetteville Inv'rs v. Commercial Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1470 (4th Cir. 1991) (finding that the district court correctly considered a motion for reconsideration “of a prior interlocutory order” under Rule 54(b)). The Court's October 5, 2018 Memorandum Opinion and Order was an interlocutory order, as it did not resolve all claims against all parties. See, e.g., Saint Annes Dev. Co. v. Trabich, 443 Fed. App'x 829, 832 (4th Cir. 2011) (“[T]he district court's summary judgment order, which did not resolve all claims against all parties, was interlocutory and thus subject to revision at any time.” (citation omitted)).

         This Court possesses “broad[] flexibility to revise interlocutory orders before final judgment as the litigation develops and new facts or arguments come to light.” Carlson v. Boston Sci. Corp., 856 F.3d 320, 325 (4th Cir. 2017) (emphasis deleted) (citing Am. Canoe Ass'n, 326 F.3d at 514-15; Cobell v. Jewell, 802 F.3d 12, 25-26 (D.C. Cir. 2015)). This Court “may revise an interlocutory order under the same circumstances in which it may depart from the law of the case: (1) a subsequent trial producing substantially different evidence; (2) a change in applicable law; or (3) clear error causing manifest injustice.” Id. (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted); see Id. (“The law-of-the-case doctrine provides that in the interest of finality, ‘when a court decides upon a rule of law, that decision should continue to govern the same issues in subsequent stages in the same case.'”). “This standard closely resembles the standard applicable to motions to reconsider final orders pursuant to [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 59(e), but it departs from such standard by accounting for potentially different evidence discovered during litigation as opposed to the discovery of new evidence not available at trial.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted); see Mayfield v. NASCAR, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012) (“A Rule 59(e) motion may only be granted in three situations: (1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In his motion to reconsider, Graham requests that the Court reconsider its dismissal of Count I of the Complaint in order to correct a clear error of law. (See ECF No. 31 at 1-2.) Specifically, Graham argues that the legislative history of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (“WVCCPA”) requires the Court to look beyond the denomination of the parties on the loan agreement and find that Graham was a co-signer under the WVCCPA, thus rendering Count I an appropriate claim for violation of the co-signer statute. (See id.) Star Credit Union, however, argues that the Court correctly found that Graham was not a co-signer as legislative history is not binding legal authority. (See ECF No. 34 at 2-3.)

         In Count I of the Complaint, Graham and Russell allege that that Star Credit Union failed to provide Graham, whom Graham and Russell allege was a co-signer on the loan, with a separate notice explaining his liability in the event of default in violation of § 46A-2-104 of the WVCCPA. (See ECF No. 1-1 at ¶ 31.) In its motion for judgment on the pleadings, Star Credit Union argued, and the Court agreed, that Graham and Russell could not state a plausible claim for relief as to this count because there is no co-signer on the loan. (See ECF No. 6 at 3; ECF No. 23 at 5-6.)

         As stated in the Court's previous opinion, West Virginia Code § 46A-2-104(a) provides the following:

(a) No person shall be held liable as cosigner, or be charged with personal liability for payment in a consumer credit sale, consumer lease or consumer loan unless that person, in addition to and before signing any instrument evidencing the transaction, signs and receives a separate notice which clearly explains his liability in the event of default by the consumer and also ...

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