Breuer v. American Express Bank

Breuer v. American Express Bank

Lieb Breuer and Sam’s Distribution, LLC v. American Express Bank, 2014 NY Slip Op 31698 (U) (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 6/30/2014). This is a financial and debt case involving plaintiffs Lieb Breuer and Sam’s Distribution, LLC (Plaintiff), Amazon.com, Inc., and American Express Bank.

Case Details

Plaintiffs initially purchased 2,958 Bluetooth headsets from Amazon.com, totaling $138,996.42. They used an American Express card to make this purchase. Later, they returned all of the headsets and requested a refund. Amazon refunded only a portion of the total price of their original purchase. Plaintiffs sued Amazon for the remainder of the funds from the returned Bluetooth headsets.

Amazon issued a refund of $37,307.54, leaving a remainder of $83,410.26 owed to the plaintiffs. The court ordered Amazon to issue a complete refund to the plaintiffs. The funds were requested by the Plaintiff in the form of a check. Instead, Amazon issued the remaining funds back to the American Express credit card that was used for the initial purchase.

Legal Summary

The plaintiffs were in a large amount of debt on the credit card account used to make the purchase on Amazon, with a total amount owed of $110,468.39. A settlement between plaintiffs and AMEX was allowed after receiving the refund from Amazon.

After reaching the settlement agreement, Plaintiff asked American Express to send a check for the refund from Amazon. American Express refused and mandated that the funds from the Amazon refund be applied to the plaintiff’s debt.

Plaintiff then sued AMEX for the refunded amount that had been applied back to their AMEX Credit Card. Plaintiff moved for summary judgment, claiming breach of contract. AMEX opposes the instant motion and cross moves for summary judgment.

The elements of a breach of contract claim must include: “the existence of a contract, the plaintiffs performance thereunder, the defendant’s breach thereof, and resulting damages.”

An account stated is an agreement between parties regarding an “account and the correctness of account items and a specific balance due on them”.  

An account stated may be expressed or implied when a party “has retained billing statements without rejecting them or objecting to them within a reasonable time under circumstances evincing assent.”


Plaintiffs’ Argument

  • Plaintiffs claimed that AMEX breached its contract by requiring the refund be applied to credit card debt.
  • Plaintiffs’ argument focuses exclusively on the settlement with AMEX
  • Plaintiffs do not dispute that when they opened the AMEX card, they agreed to the terms.
  • Plaintiffs do not deny that they knew the refund had posted on the account prior to the settlement.

AMEX Argument

  • AMEX asserts that at the time the settlement was agreed upon, Plaintiffs’ credit card balance was $27,058.13.
  • AMEX contends that according to the credit card agreement, the financial institution has complete control in deciding to apply payments and credits to outstanding balances however they see fit.
  • AMEX argues that giving the plaintiffs money from the refund would create a windfall, as the Plaintiffs did not pay the debt owed to AMEX, yet they sued Amazon for the funds owed.

AMEX shows that plaintiffs had no right of ownership to the Amazon refund; therefore, their claims are invalid. Plaintiffs do not provide adequate material requiring a trial of factual issues on either of the causes of action.

  • The Court agrees with American Express and the case was dismissed.
  • Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is denied. 
  • Defendants’ cross motion for summary judgment is granted. 
  • Complaint and Counterclaims are dismissed. 
  • The Court orders that the Clerk of Court enter judgment accordingly.

 


Case Timeline

April 18, 2012: Plaintiffs’ AMEX credit card had a balance of $110,468.39 and the card account was placed in collections.

July 24, 2012: AMEX commenced an action to collect on debt from Plaintiff.

October 24, 2012:  Plaintiffs commenced an action against Amazon due to Amazon’s refusal to refund the full amount of the returned items.

October 18, 2012: While the collection action was pending, Amazon refunded $83,410.26 to Plaintiff’s credit card and AMEX applied the refund to the debt, leaving a $27,058.13 balance due on the card.

November 8, 2012: After the refund had been issued to Plaintiff’s credit card account, Plaintiff and AMEX entered into a settlement agreement in which AMEX released plaintiffs from the collection action in exchange for $20,000 via 12 monthly payments.

November 15, 2012 and December 6, 2012: Plaintiffs’ counsel wrote AMEX requesting a check in the amount of the refund, claiming that the refund was a payment and did not qualify as a refund. AMEX refused to make the payment requested.  

June 21, 2013: Plaintiffs filed suit against AMEX, asserting causes of action for breach of contract and conversion. Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment, arguing that the settlement released plaintiffs from the $110,468.39 collections action in exchange for the $20,000 settlement amount.

June 30, 2014: The Court agrees with American Express and the case is dismissed.

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