New York City Debt Collection Defense Attorney

Citibank Fails to Show Debtor Retained Account Statements Without objection; Appeals Court Rejects its Account Stated Claim

In a notable appellate decision, Citibank (S.D.), N.A. v. Brown-Serulovic, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court's Second Judicial Department overturned a lower court's decision that had previously favored Citibank in a debt collection case against Ms. Brown-Serulovic. I reported on this case years ago, but I wanted to refresh the content and add an in-depth article to the law of Account Stated. 

The case is Citibank (S.D.), N.A. v. Brown-Serulovic, 948 N.Y.S.2d 658 (N.Y. App. Div. 2012).

Brief Case Background

Citibank sought to collect $24,493.62 from Ms. Brown-Serulovic, alleging breach of contract and "account stated"—a legal concept where a debtor implicitly agrees to pay a debt by keeping statements without dispute or making partial payments. The Rockland County Supreme Court initially sided with Citibank, but the Appellate Division disagreed, primarily on the grounds of the account-stated claim.

Appellate Court's Findings

The appellate court cited a lack of concrete evidence that Ms. Brown-Serulovic had agreed to the debt. While Citibank claimed that statements were sent regularly, they couldn't confirm that Ms. Brown-Serulovic had accepted these statements as correct. Moreover, her partial payments did not necessarily indicate agreement with the full amount claimed—challenging the very basis of an account stated.

For the breach of contract claim, although Citibank showed evidence of an existing credit agreement, Ms. Brown-Serulovic presented her objections to certain charges and issues of mistaken identity, which introduced reasonable doubt and, therefore, factual disputes that should be decided at trial, not in a summary judgment.

Why This Case Matters in 2024

The principles established in this case continue to resonate. They underscore the enduring need for creditors to provide clear and convincing evidence when seeking judgment against consumers. With the increased digitalization of financial transactions and records, the court's rigorous standards for evidence set a precedent that remains relevant. As we advance technologically, the court's insistence on meticulous documentation reminds us that digital records must be managed with the same, if not greater, diligence as paper ones.

The Broader Implications

This case sets a clear message: creditors must maintain thorough records and cannot rely on partial payments as implicit agreement to the debt. This principle is significant for consumers, as it provides protection against aggressive debt collection tactics and emphasizes the importance of keeping one's own detailed financial records.


Below is an updated, comprehensive look at the Account Stated cause of action:

Account Stated Law in Collection Practice by Jesse Langel

Sheril Stanford