ROBINSON v. PNC BANK
OPINION. Signed by Judge Stanley R. Chesler on 1/21/15. (DD, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HELENE R. ROBINSON,
PNC BANK and LINDEN
Civil Action No. 13-7818 (SRC)
Civil Action No. 14-5676 (SRC)
CHESLER, District Judge
These matters come before the Court upon various motions filed by pro se Plaintiff
Helene R. Robinson (“Plaintiff”). In Civil Action No. 13-7818, Plaintiff moves to reopen the
case and remove the arbitrator [Docket Entry 31], and to consolidate [Docket Entry 32]. In Civil
Action No. 14-5676, Plaintiff moves to amend the Complaint [Docket Entries 8, 12], and to
consolidate [Docket Entry 9]. Also before the Court in that latter action is a motion by
Defendant PNC Bank (“PNC”) to dismiss [Docket Entry 5]. The Court has considered the
parties’ submissions. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant PNC’s motion to dismiss
the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6); the Court will deny as futile
Plaintiff’s motion to amend her Complaint, and it will deny her motion to reopen and replace the
arbitrator; Plaintiff’s consolidation motions are therefore rendered moot.
This case involves Plaintiff’s repeated allegations of fraudulent lending practices in
connection with her purchase of a car from Defendant Linden Volkswagen (“Linden VW”).
Linden VW later assigned its sales contract with Plaintiff to PNC. In December of 2013,
Plaintiff filed an action against Linden VW and PNC (“the First Action”). In April of 2014, this
Court compelled the First Action to arbitration in accordance with the governing contract among
the parties. The Honorable Richard C. Camp was selected to arbitrate. PNC then tendered its
defense to Linden VW, which agreed to represent PNC’s interest in the arbitration.
Next, Plaintiff initiated a second action (“the Second Action”), claiming that PNC is
liable for having tendered its arbitration defense to Linden VW, which she asserts created an
irreconcilable conflict of interest that undermined her claims. She also generally asserts that
there is an improper and collusive relationship between Linden VW’s counsel and Judge Camp.
a. Legal Standard
A complaint survives a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss if it contains “sufficient factual
allegations, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.’” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 556). The complaint must show, through the facts alleged, that the plaintiff is entitled to
relief. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). The facts alleged “must
be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]’” Eid v. Thompson, 740 F.3d
118, 122 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
While the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it
need not accept a “legal conclusion couched as factual allegation.” Baraka v. McGreevey, 481
F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007); Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679
(“While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by
factual allegations.”). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, will not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, although a
pro se pleading is reviewed more liberally, it must nevertheless still allege facts sufficient to
support a claim for relief. See Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013)
(“[P]ro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.”).
b. Plaintiff’s Allegations in the Second Action
Because Plaintiff at least invokes federal legislation, the Court opts not to dismiss her
Complaint in the Section Action for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Assessing Plaintiff’s
claims with respect to those federal laws, however, the Court will dismiss the Complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Although Plaintiff cites numerous statutes, her Complaint fails to state an actionable
violation of any of them. Plaintiff first cites laws that limit credit advertising and credit card
fees. 15 U.S.C. §§ 1661-1665. Plaintiff does not, however, allege facts suggesting that
Defendants violated those limits. Plaintiff next cites legislation governing consumer credit
transactions and disclosures, 15 U.S.C. § 1601-§1681t, but the Complaint similarly fails to state
a violation of those provisions. Third, Plaintiff refers to the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. §
13, yet she does not include any factual indicia of an antitrust violation. Finally, Plaintiff cites
12 U.S.C. §§ 5512-5581 and § 1691b, which pertain to the powers of the Bureau of Consumer
Financial Protection; Plaintiff is not permitted to act pursuant to that agency’s authority.
With respect to the allegations relating to the arbitration proceedings, they all fail to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted. In essence, Plaintiff has not stated a conflict of interest
between any of the parties whatsoever. Plaintiff has not identified any ethical conflict that arises
from PNC having tendered its defense to Linden VW. Rather than constituting an unethical or
problematic action, PNC has a right to tender its defense. Indeed, pursuant to the contract
between PNC and Linden VW, PNC had requested that Linden VW indemnify and defend it.
That PNC exercised this contractual right does not constitute a fraud.
c. Plaintiff’s Proposed Amendment in the Second Action
Plaintiff also moves to amend her Complaint in the Second Action. Courts are permitted
to deny such applications if amendment would be futile. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec.
Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997). Here, the proposed amendments add no new facts
which cure the deficiencies just discussed. Moreover, the additional legal authority cited is
inapposite. Plaintiff relies on the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which only
governs state actors, and it cannot be construed to support a claim against PNC. See Blum v.
Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1001 (1982); Lugar v. Edmonson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982).
Plaintiff also refers to various additional statutory provisions that are all inapplicable; namely,
Plaintiff cites sections of the Truth in Lending Act pertaining to dwelling-related credit
transactions, student loans, and mortgages, none of which correspond to Plaintiff’s allegations.
All told, the Court will deny Plaintiff’s motion because the proposed amendments nevertheless
“would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.” Burlington, 114 F.3d at 1434.
d. Plaintiff’s Motion to Reopen the First Action and to Replace the Arbitrator
Finally, Plaintiff has not identified any inappropriate conduct or relationship involving
Judge Camp. Plaintiff refers in her motion to “extreme bias, prejudice and unfair practices,” yet
Plaintiff has not identified any facts whatsoever to support that allegation. To the extent Plaintiff
later wishes to challenge any determination made in the arbitration proceedings, such an
argument would be appropriate once a motion to confirm or deny the arbitration award is made.
For the foregoing reasons, in the Second Action, the Court will grant PNC’s motion to
dismiss and deny Plaintiff’s motion to amend; Plaintiff’s motion to consolidate is rendered moot.
In the First Action, the Court will deny Plaintiff’s motion to reopen and replace the arbitrator;
Plaintiff’s motion to consolidate in that action is also rendered moot.
An appropriate form of Order will be filed herewith.
s/ Stanley R. Chesler
STANLEY R. CHESLER
United States District Judge
Dated: January 21st, 2015
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