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Riddle v. Charter West Bank

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 1, 2019

CHARTER WEST BANK, a Nebraska Corporation, Defendant.


          John M. Gerrard Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Filing 94; filing 97. The Court finds that the plaintiffs' remaining claim-tortious interference with a business relationship or expectancy-fails because the plaintiffs failed to present evidence they were damaged by the defendant's allegedly tortious conduct. Accordingly, the Court will grant summary judgment for the defendant and dismiss the complaint.


         The defendant, Charter West Bank, is a Nebraska corporation that, among other things, processes mortgage loan applications including Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loans. Filing 99 at 1-2.[1] The plaintiffs, Justin and Erin Riddle, submitted a Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA) to Charter West, intending to purchase a home. Filing 99 at 2.

         One of the questions on the URLA asked whether either of the Riddles was obligated to pay child support. Filing 100-1 at 3. They said they weren't. Filing 100-1 at 3. But, in fact, Justin was. Filing 100-3 at 2-3. Charter West obtained records from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reflecting that Justin's child support was in arrears. Filing 100 at 3; filing 100-4.[2]

         The events that follow aren't really disputed, although the sequence of events is. On May 16, 2016, Justin asked Charter West for a copy of the Riddles' file, and their FHA case number, to transfer the loan request. Filing 94-1; filing 100-8. And at some point, Charter West denied the Riddles' loan application. Filing 100 at 3. Charter West claims that was on May 16. Filing 100 at 3. But the "Credit Denial Date" on Charter West's entry into FHA Connection records, reflecting the denial, is "05/17/16." Filing 100-7.

         Charter West claims that the Riddles never "withdrew" their loan application, so Charter West denied it. Filing 99 at 5. The Riddles' version of events is that Charter West should have stopped processing their loan after they indicated they wanted to transfer it, but proceeded to deny it instead. See filing 107 at 3. But regardless, on May 19, Charter West was asked by Freedom Lending to transfer the Riddles' FHA case number. Filing 100-10 at 2-3. Charter West transferred the case and the Riddles' FHA appraisal, completing the transfer by May 23 (which was two business days later). Filing 100-10 at 1-2; filing 100-11.

         The Riddles eventually completed another URLA for Freedom Lending and obtained financing. Filing 100-12; filing 100-14; filing 100-15. They successfully purchased the home they'd been trying to buy. Filing 100-13.

         The Riddles sued Charter West, asserting six claims for relief: (1) breach of fiduciary duty; (2) tortious interference with a business relationship; (3) fraud; (4) violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.; (5) "willful noncompliance"; and (6) conspiracy. Filing 1-1. The Court dismissed all of those claims except tortious interference with a business relationship as to Charter West. Filing 21. It's that claim that's now the basis for the parties' motions for summary judgment.


         Summary judgment is proper if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for the motion, and must identify those portions of the record which the movant believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). If the movant does so, the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

         On a motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts. Id. Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the evidence are jury functions, not those of a judge. Id. But the nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id. In order to show that disputed facts are material, the party opposing summary judgment must cite to the relevant substantive law in identifying facts that might affect the outcome of the suit. Quinn v. St. Louis Cty., 653 F.3d 745, 751 (8th Cir. 2011). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovant's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could conceivably find for the nonmovant. Barber v. C1 Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 791-92 (8th Cir. 2011). Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042.


         To succeed on a claim for tortious interference with a business relationship or expectancy, a plaintiff must prove (1) the existence of a valid business relationship or expectancy, (2) knowledge by the interferer of the relationship or expectancy, (3) an unjustified intentional act of interference on the part of the interferer, (4) proof that the interference caused the harm sustained, and (5) damage to the party whose relationship or expectancy was disrupted. Thompson v. Johnson,910 N.W.2d 800, 806-07 (Neb. 2018); seeW. ...

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