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Tait v. Credit Acceptance

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

October 23, 2013

VERNON TAIT, Plaintiff,
v.
CREDIT ACCEPTANCE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LOUIS GUIROLA, Jr., Chief District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is the Defendant's Motion [7] for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff Vernon Tait, who is proceeding pro se, alleges in this removed case that defendant Credit Acceptance "did willfully commit a conflict of interest and contempt of court in court ordered arbitration hearing." Credit Acceptance requests summary judgment in regard to Tait's claims, sanctions in the form of attorneys fees and expenses, and an order prohibiting Tait from instituting further litigation against Credit Acceptance because Tait has engaged in vexatious litigation. Tait has not filed a response. After due consideration of defendant's arguments, the relevant law and the record in this case, it is the Court's opinion that Tait's claims should be dismissed. However, the Court declines to impose sanctions on Tait. Accordingly, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Tait and another individual financed a vehicle purchased from Chuck Stevens Hyundai using a retail installment contract that included an agreement to arbitrate any claims between the parties relating to the purchase and financing of the vehicle. The retail installment contract was subsequently assigned by Chuck Stevens to Credit Acceptance. Due to their default, the vehicle was repossessed in December 2008, by Allstar Recovery, LLC.

Tait and the other purchaser then filed the first of two lawsuits against Credit Acceptance and Allstar in the County Court of Jackson County, Mississippi on March 1, 2011. They alleged that the vehicle was damaged when it was repossessed. Credit Acceptance and Allstar moved to dismiss or compel arbitration. On July 19, 2011, the County Court entered an order compelling Plaintiff and Steen to arbitrate their claims. Tait and the other purchaser filed a separate suit against Credit Acceptance and Chuck Stevens in the County Court of Jackson County alleging that the defendants committed fraud. They were compelled by the County Court to arbitrate those claims as well, although Credit Acceptance alleges Tait and the other purchaser did not do so.

On January 27, 2012, Tait and the other purchaser filed a demand for arbitration against Credit Acceptance and Allstar with the American Arbitration Association (the "AAA"). They alleged that the "[c]ar was damaged during repossession process" and that the "[c]ompany refuses to take responsibility for damage." (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. H (¶ 2), ECF No. 7-8). They demanded $50, 000 in damages.

The AAA appointed the Honorable Richard W. McKenzie as the arbitrator and a hearing was set for December 3, 2012. On December 4, 2012, Judge McKenzie entered an award denying all of Tait's claims, and awarding Credit Acceptance "the sum of $1, 650.00, representing that portion of [the fees] in excess of the apportioned costs previously incurred by Respondent Credit Acceptance Corporation." (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. J, ECF No. 7-10). Judge McKenzie's award was subsequently confirmed and entered as the Judgment of the County Court on April 4, 2013. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. K, ECF No. 7-9).

On March 11, 2013, Tait forwarded a letter to the AAA stating that he was "not satisfied" with Judge McKenzie's award. He complained that counsel for Allstar represented both of the defendants and wanted to "know what gave the arbitrator the right to allow Credit Acceptance not to participate." (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. L, ECF No. 7-12). Counsel for Allstar responded that Allstar represented Credit Acceptance because it was contractually required to provide Credit Acceptance with a defense to Tait's claims. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. M, ECF No. 7-13). On April 3, 2013, Judge McKenzie entered a subsequent Disposition for Application of Clarification of Award in which he simply stated that counsel for Allstar "indicated that he was assuming the legal representation of Credit Acceptance, " but that "the corporate attorney for Credit Acceptance Corporation opted to stay and observe the remainder of the hearing." (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. N, ECF No. 7-14). The award was reaffirmed in all other respects. ( Id. )

Tait filed three lawsuits after the arbitration was final. The first was a "Notice of Appeal" in the Circuit Court of Jackson County against Greg Denham, agent of Allstar, and Credit Acceptance. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. O, ECF No. 7-15). The "Notice of Appeal" alleged that Denham perjured himself during the December 3, 2012, arbitration hearing before Judge McKenzie. ( Id. (¶V)). The case was dismissed with prejudice by the Circuit Court on April 12, 2013 because it was filed against non-existent entities. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. P, ECF No. 7-16).

Tait filed his second lawsuit following the arbitration against counsel for Credit Acceptance and Allstar, Deaton & Berry, P.A., on September 24, 2012 in the Circuit Court of Jackson County. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. Q, ECF No. 7-17). Tait alleged that Deaton & Berry should be held in contempt because it filed motions with the AAA to dismiss the arbitration. ( Id. (¶IV)). That action was dismissed by the County Court on January 24, 2013. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. R, ECF No. 7-18).

Tait filed this lawsuit against Credit Acceptance, his third following the arbitration, in Jackson County Court on February 8, 2013. Credit Acceptance removed it to this Court shortly thereafter.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is mandated against the party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party has the burden of proof at trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Factual controversies are resolved in favor of the nonmoving party, but only when there is an actual controversy; that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). As already noted, Tait has not submitted any argument or evidence in opposition to Credit Acceptance's Motion. Nevertheless, Credit Acceptance has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and, unless it has done so, the Court may not grant the Motion, regardless of whether any response was filed. Hibernia Nat. Bank v. ...


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