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Marcotte v. American Honda Finance Corp.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 1, 2016

JAMES MARCOTTE, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN HONDA FINANCE CORPORATION, Defendants.

ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 43)

Leo T. Sorokin United States District Judge

Plaintiff James Marcotte (“Marcotte”) brought this action, which stems from an allegedly fraudulent signing of his name to loan documents. See Doc. No. 49-2. After Marcotte voluntarily dismissed one defendant, Majestic Motors, Inc. (“Majestic Motors”), Doc. No. 10, the sole remaining Defendant, American Honda Finance Corporation (“AHFC”) moved for summary judgment on the two remaining counts against it, Counts 6 and 7. Doc. No. 43.[1]Marcotte opposed the motion, Doc. No. 47, and AHFC replied. Doc. No. 49. After careful consideration of the parties’ briefs and arguments, the motion is ALLOWED.

I. FACTS[2]

Marcotte owned and operated three New England automobile rental businesses-Select Car Rental, LLC; KDSB Rentals, Inc.; and NH Auto Rental, Inc. Doc. No. 49 ¶¶ 1, 2. Between 2008 and 2010, these entities purchased 132 vehicles from Majestic Motors. Id. ¶ 3. AHFC financed these vehicle purchases. Id. Although Marcotte’s signature appears on the forms, he asserts that he never signed off as a guarantor in his personal capacity for the financing contracts for those vehicles. See Doc. No. 45-3 at 10.

Nevertheless, by no later than October 6, 2010, AHFC had reported to credit reporting agencies that Marcotte had outstanding personal installment debt to AHFC. Doc. No. 45-3 at 5. Marcotte noticed this debt appearing on his personal credit report sometime in October 2010, Doc. No. 49 ¶ 5, and, shortly thereafter, he contacted AHFC to discuss his purportedly incorrect personal liability for these contracts. Doc. No. 45 ¶ 17. Marcotte does not know who forged his signature, id. ¶ 30, and there is no record evidence that AHFC was involved in doing so. Further, the record does not contain any evidence that AHFC furnished Marcotte’s purportedly outstanding personal debt to credit reporting agencies beyond the initial disclosure it made which then appeared on Maroctte’s October 6, 2010 credit report.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Once a party “has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who ‘may not rest on mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Barbour v. Dynamics Research Corp., 63 F.3d 32, 37 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986)). The Court is “obliged to review the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and to draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party’s favor.” LeBlanc v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 6 F.3d 836, 841 (1st Cir. 1993). Even so, the Court is to ignore “conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation.” Prescott v. Higgins, 538 F.3d 32, 39 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Medina-Muñoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1990)). A court may enter summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

III. DISCUSSION

AHFC offers a host of reasons to grant summary judgment. See Doc. No. 44. The Court, proceeding count-by-count, reaches only those issues necessary to resolve the motion.

A. Count 6-Fraud[3]

Count 6 alleges that “AHFC knowingly utilized false and/or forged documents for purposes of leading the credit reporting agency or agencies to lead such agency or agencies to believe that Plaintiff was, in fact, personally liable.” Doc. No. 49-2 ¶ 53. The statute of limitations for a Massachusetts fraud claim is three years. Pilalas v. Cadle Co., 695 F.3d 12, 14 (1st Cir. 2012). “A claim for fraudulent misrepresentation does not begin to accrue until ‘a plaintiff learns or reasonably should have learned of the misrepresentation.’” Rodi v. S. New Eng. Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 17 (1st Cir. 2004) (quoting Kent v. Dupree, 429 N.E.2d 1041, 1043 (Mass. Ap. Ct. 1982).

Marcotte learned of any potential misrepresentation AHFC made to credit reporting agencies regarding any debt he purportedly assumed in his personal capacity in October 2010, when he saw the outstanding AHFC debt on his personal credit report. He did not file suit until March 6, 2014, more than three years later. Doc. No. 49-2 at 8. Accordingly, the statute of limitations bars this claim. Additionally, the record contains no evidence that AHFC itself forged Marcotte’s name, nor that it otherwise knew his signature was not valid when it reported the outstanding debt to any credit reporting agencies. For both these reasons, the motion is ALLOWED for Count 6, which is DISMISSED.

B. Count 7-Negligence/Gross Negligence

Count 7 alleges that “AHFC failed to exercise . . . reasonable care in its conduct with respect to the nature of Plaintiff’s lack of personal liability for the obligations of said entities, ” id. ¶ 58, and that, “[i]n spite of repeated inquires by Plaintiff, AHFC refused to disclose to Plaintiff the basis on which his personal credit was being downgraded by one or more credit reporting ...


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