Barron v. Enterprise Recovery Systems Inc.
When a federal law's pre-emption statute creates a choice-of-law question, as opposed to a choice-of-forum question, the defendant's pre-emption claim may not affect the plaintiff's choice of forum. The plaintiff, Judith Barron, sued Enterprise Recovery Systems Inc., a debt collector, alleging it violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act when it attempted to collect a default student loan. The plaintiff's complaint alleged that the defendant failed to inform the plaintiff about options to avoid wage garnishment, misrepresented the documents required at a hearing, misrepresented the timing of rehabilitation payments, and failed to comply with Department of Education procedures, in violation of the Higher Education Act, 20 United States Code §1070. The defendant moved to dismiss and argued that the Higher Education Act pre-empted the plaintiff's CUTPA count. The pre-emption provision in the Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §1098g, states, "Loans made, insured, or guaranteed pursuant to a program authorized by title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. §1070 et seq.) shall not be subject to any disclosure requirements of any State law." Ruling on a motion for summary judgment in Brooks v. Sallie Mae Inc., a 2011 decision, Superior Court Judge Jennings wrote, "specific factual allegations of the plaintiff's CUTPA claim are expressly preempted by §1098g." The Brooks court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment, because part of the CUTPA claim was not pre-empted. Here, the court found that the Higher Education Act's pre-emption statute creates a choice-of-law question, as opposed to a choice-of-forum question. Congress has not designated another forum for the resolution of this type of dispute. The defendant's pre-emption claim does not affect the plaintiff's choice of forum, and the court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss.