Wisconsin Couple Loses Consumer Act Lawsuit Against Home Improvement
By Joe Forward, Legal Writer,
State Bar of Wisconsin
Sept. 27, 2012 – A couple who sought $75,000 from Home Depot
claiming violations of the Wisconsin Consumer Act recently lost in the
federal court of appeals.
Brenda and Timothy Parent (the Parents) obtained a Home Depot credit
card issued by Citibank for Home Depot purchases only. The couple was in
the business of building log cabins through Crivitz Log Cabins
LLC, and entered into an agreement with a customer to build
The customer also maintained a Citibank-issued Home Depot credit card,
and a Home Depot log cabin package worth $9,761 was charged to the
customer’s account. The customer later disputed the charge, and
Citibank ultimately transferred the charges to the Parents’
account when the bank discovered that Timothy Parent signed the customer
The parties settled their own dispute through mediation, but the
Parents sued Home Depot and Citibank in state court when they realized
the $9,761 remained on their account and had accrued interest of more
than $11,000. The Parents thought the settlement included payment of the
Home Depot charge. The case was removed to the federal district court in
The Parents claimed that Home Depot violated Wisconsin’s Consumer
Act, including provisions that prohibit debt collectors from claiming or
threatening to enforce rights that do not exist, or disclosing or
threatening to disclose information about credit worthiness that is
The unpaid charge negatively impacted their credit and the ability to
operate business, the Parents argued, and Home Depot was liable as a
debt collector in a consumer transaction.
After dismissing Citibank, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin granted summary judgment to Home Depot, concluding
that the home improvement retailer could not violate the consumer act
provisions at issue without attempting to collect the debt.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed in Parent
v. Home Depot U.S.A., No. 11-3665 (Sept. 24, 2012), noting that
required evidence was insufficient.
“[T]he Parents failed to present any competent evidence that Home
Depot attempted to collect a debt from them,” wrote Judge William
Bauer. “Without such evidence, a reasonable jury could not
conclude that Home Depot violated the Wisconsin Consumer Act.”
The appeals court explained that Citibank owned the debt and supplied
information to credit agencies, not Home Depot, and there was no agency
relationship between them.