Grace Akinlemibola v. Pennsylvania Higher Education
Filed Nonprecedential Disposition PER CURIAM. AFFIRMED. Frank H. Easterbrook, Circuit Judge; Ann Claire Williams, Circuit Judge and David F. Hamilton, Circuit Judge. [6810938-1]  [16-3183]
To be cited only in accordance with Fed. R. App. P. 32.1
United States Court of Appeals
For the Seventh Circuit
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Submitted January 11, 2017*
Decided January 11, 2017
FRANK H. EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge
ANN CLAIRE WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge
DAVID F. HAMILTON, Circuit Judge
d/b/a AMERICAN EDUCATION
Appeal from the United States District
Court for the Northern District of Illinois,
No. 16 C 5291
Sharon Johnson Coleman,
O R D E R
In this diversity action, Grace Akinlemibola appeals the dismissal of her
complaint alleging that the servicer of her student loans mishandled her requests to
defer payments and in the process breached their contract and violated various state
laws. The district court dismissed her complaint for failure to state a claim. We affirm.
* We have unanimously agreed to decide the case without oral argument because
the briefs and record adequately present the facts and legal arguments, and oral
argument would not significantly aid the court. See FED. R. APP. P. 34(a)(2)(C).
In her operative complaint, Akinlemibola alleged that the wrongful conduct of
her student‐loan servicer, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, led to
negative information being included on her credit reports. According to the complaint,
she applied to the agency in October 2015 for a six‐month deferment of payments.
Receiving no response, she resubmitted a deferment application. She still heard nothing,
so in January 2016 she spoke with an agency representative, who told her that the
deferment would be applied to her account within two to three days. Akinlemibola says
she relied on this representation and stopped making payments on her account. In May,
however, she learned that reports from three credit‐reporting agencies contained
negative information concerning the loans. She promptly paid the entire past due
balance of the loans.
Akinlemibola says that she then called the agency and a customer‐service
representative told her that a wrong application form may have been listed on the
website and that submission instructions were incorrect. The representative gave
Akinlemibola both a different fax number to submit her deferment application, as well
as an example of the form she should use to apply for deferment requests. This
information was false, Akinlemibola says, because the supposedly incorrect forms and
fax number remained on the agency’s website.
Akinlemibola, an Illinois citizen, brought this suit in federal court against the
agency, a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business in that state. She
alleged breach of contract, promissory estoppel, gross negligence, negligent and
fraudulent misrepresentation, defamation, and tortious interference with an economic
relationship. Akinlemibola attached copies of the deferment applications to her
complaint, making them part of the pleadings. FED. R. CIV. P. 10(c); see Brownmark Films,
LLC v. Comedy Partners, 682 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2012).
On the agency’s motion, the district court dismissed the complaint for failure to
state a claim. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). All of Akinlemibola’s claims were undermined, the
court explained, by certain facts alleged in the complaint and incorporated in the
attached deferment applications. For instance, the forms informed applicants that they
would “receive a letter indicating whether [their] request has been approved or denied,”
and that it was “important to continue to make payments until [an] alternative
repayment option has been approved.” Akinlemibola’s allegations, the court
determined, “affirmatively show” her understanding that her request for deferment
could be denied. Moreover, the court observed, Akinlemibola filled out the forms
improperly, failing to obtain her co‐borrower’s signature as required.
The court then explained why each of her individual claims failed to state a claim.
First, she could not state a claim for misrepresentation, whether based on fraud or
negligence, because she could not show that she had been harmed by the agency’s
misinformation about the fax number, since any damages she incurred were the result of
her own nonpayment of loan obligations. Nor could she state a breach‐of‐contract claim
because no contract could have been formed simply by her submission of a deferment
request; the servicer here had the authority to approve or deny any such request. Third,
she could not state a promissory‐estoppel claim, since she could not reasonably have
relied on the customer‐service representative’s oral statement in the face of written
representations on the deferment application that she must continue to make payments
until the agency approved the request in writing. Fourth, she could not state a
defamation claim because she could not show that any false statement was made to
credit‐reporting agencies, given her acknowledgment that she did not make any
requisite payments on the loans. And finally, she did not state a claim for tortious
interference because she did not suggest that the agency knew of any prospective
business relationship, let alone intended to disrupt it.
On appeal Akinlemibola first argues that the district court’s dismissal of her claim
for misrepresentation deprived her of an opportunity to elaborate on the nature of her
damages. But such elaboration would not save her misrepresentation claim. One
element of a misrepresentation claim, whether fraudulent or negligent, is damage
resulting from an action taken in reliance on the truth of the other party’s statement,
see Wigod v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 673 F.3d 547, 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2012) (interpreting
Illinois law), and here, as the district court found, any damage incurred by Akinlemibola
(i.e., poor credit score) resulted from her own nonpayment of loan obligations.
She next challenges the dismissal of her breach‐of‐contract claim, arguing that the
district court did not “recognize a mutual understanding” between the parties. She
points to her allegation that she previously obtained deferments from the agency, and
that these past dealings (along with her phone conversation with the customer‐service
representative) created a “mutual understanding” that her deferment automatically
would be granted upon receipt of her completed application. But, as the district court
explained, no contract could have been formed merely upon her submission of an
application for deferment where the agency was authorized to approve or deny the
request. See Wigod, 673 F.3d at 561 (7th Cir. 2012). What’s more, no contract could have
been formed because Akinlemibola left the application incomplete by not having her
co‐borrower sign the application.
Next Akinlemibola challenges the court’s dismissal of her promissory‐estoppel
claim, arguing that she reasonably relied on the customer‐service representative’s oral
statement that the servicer would apply her deferment to her account within two to
three days. Her reliance was reasonable, she maintains, because she had prior dealings
with the agency where her deferment was applied immediately to her account. But none
of this addresses the district court’s appropriate observation that her reliance could not
have been reasonable given the written representations on the application that she must
continue to make payments until informed by the agency in writing that her request had
We have considered Akinlemibola’s remaining arguments, and none has merit.
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