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Schneider v. Citimortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 8, 2019

RANDALL A. SCHNEIDER, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITIMORTGAGE, INC., et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HOLLY L. TEETER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Randall and Amy Schneider asserted claims under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act (“KCPA”) against Defendants CitiMortgage Inc. and Citibank, N.A. The Court granted summary judgment in Defendants' favor on these claims because neither Defendant was a “supplier” under the plain and unambiguous language of the KCPA.[1] Doc. 586. Plaintiffs now move to reinstate these claims based on a recent amendment to the definition of “supplier.” Doc. 636. Because this amendment is prospective and does not change the controlling law that applies to this case, the Court denies the motion.

         I.BACKGROUND

         In 2007, Plaintiffs entered into a refinanced loan with Defendant Citibank, which was later serviced by Defendant CitiMortgage. Plaintiffs refinanced again a few years later-this time with U.S. Bank. They subsequently brought this action asserting several claims against Defendants, including two violations of the KCPA.

         The KCPA prohibits suppliers from engaging in deceptive and unconscionable acts and practices in connection with “consumer transaction[s].” K.S.A. §§ 50-626, 50-627. For the duration of the loan, the KCPA defined “Supplier” as:

a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, seller, lessor, assignor, or other person who, in the ordinary course of business, solicits, engages in or enforces consumer transactions, whether or not dealing directly with the consumer. Supplier does not include any bank, trust company or lending institution which is subject to state or federal regulation with regard to disposition of repossessed collateral by such bank, trust company or lending institution.

K.S.A. § 50-624(1) (2005-2018) (emphasis added). In moving for summary judgment, Defendants argued that the plain and unambiguous language underlined above excluded them from the definition of “supplier.” Doc. 524 at 20-23. In response, Plaintiffs offered “no reasonable argument for finding ambiguity with the KCPA's definition of ‘supplier' that expressly excludes a regulated bank, trust company or lending institution.” Doc. 586 at 10. Thus, the Court held that the plain and unambiguous language of the KCPA excluded Defendants and cited several federal and Kansas cases agreeing with its analysis. See e.g., Ellis v. Chase Bank USA, NA, 2017 WL 5158311, at *3 (D. Kan. 2017); Kalebaugh v. Cohen, McNeile & Pappas, P.C., 76 F.Supp.3d 1251, 1260 (D. Kan. 2015); White v. Sec. State Bank, 2017 WL 5507943, at *6-8 (Kan.Ct.App. 2017). Because the statutory language was plain and unambiguous, the Court refused to consider Plaintiffs' arguments based on the legislative history, canons of construction, and other considerations.

         Effective July 1, 2019, the Kansas legislature amended the definition of “supplier” to delete the sentence underlined above.[2] A stated reason for the change was to confirm the intent for a “narrow exception for occasional instances where such entities needed to sell or repossess property” and address some judicial interpretations of the previous language “as a blanket exclusion for banks and other lending institution.” Doc. 638-1 at 4. The amendment is prospective only. 2019 Kan. Laws Ch. 66, § 17.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs ask the Court to reinstate the KCPA claims and argue that the July 1 amendment satisfies three law-of-the-case exceptions because the amendment (1) constitutes new evidence, (2) is an intervening law that undermines the original decision, and (3) renders the summary judgment ruling clearly erroneous such that the maintaining the prior ruling creates a manifest injustice. Bishop v. Smith, 760 F.3d 1070, 1086 (10th Cir. 2014). At its core, Plaintiffs' principal argument is that it would be fundamentally unfair to exclude Defendants from the KCPA after the legislature has demonstrated an intent for lending institutions to have been included all along. In response, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' motion is untimely and, alternatively, that the amendment is not a change in the controlling law. Because Plaintiffs identify no change in the controlling law that alters the summary-judgment analysis and merely cite additional legislative history, the Court denies their motion to reinstate.

         A. Plaintiffs properly filed the motion to reinstate pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b).

         Defendants initially argue that Plaintiffs' motion is untimely because Plaintiffs have far exceeded the 28-day deadline to file under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and the motion does not seek reconsideration based on the grounds listed in Rule 60(b). The Court disagrees. The summary judgment order did not finally adjudicate all the claims and, thus, it is an interlocutory order that may be revised at any time before entry of final judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b); see also Price v. Philpot, 420 F.3d 1158, 1167 n.9 (10th Cir. 2005). Therefore, Plaintiffs' motion to reinstate is not time barred.

         B. The plain meaning of the 2005 through 2018 definition of “supplier” excludes Defendants.

         Because the summary judgment order is an interlocutory order, the law-of-the-case doctrine also does not apply. Instead, the Court has broad discretion to revisit the order. See Rimbert v. Eli Lilly & Co., 647 F.3d 1247, 1251 (10th Cir. 2011) (explaining that courts retain discretion even when a case is reassigned to a different ...


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