United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
before the Court is Plaintiff Credit Acceptance
Corporation's motion to compel arbitration . Upon due
consideration, the Court finds that the motion should be
Factual and Procedural Background
March 13, 2017, Plaintiff Credit Acceptance Corporation
("Credit Acceptance") filed this suit against
Defendant Robie Vansteenburgh, also known as Robbie
Vansteenburgh ("Vansteenburgh"). On March 24, 2017,
Vansteenburgh filed an answer  to the complaint .
Subsequently, on April 3, 2017, Vansteenburgh filed the
present motion to compel arbitration . Credit Acceptance
filed a response in opposition , and Vansteenburgh filed a
reply . The matter is now ripe for review.
28, 2015, Vansteenburgh electronically executed a Retail
Installment Contract for the purchase of a 2004 GMC Sonoma
(the "vehicle") from Jerry Willis Motors LLC
("Jerry Willis Motors"). It is undisputed that the
Retail Installment Contract, which was assigned to Credit
Acceptance, includes an arbitration agreement. Credit
Acceptance avers that Vansteenburgh attempted to circumvent
this arbitration agreement by filing suit against Credit
Acceptance, Jerry Willis Motors, and Jerry Willis in the
Circuit Court of Itawamba County in Civil Action No. CV17-
038PI, wherein Vansteenburgh alleged that those parties
unlawfully and wrongfully repossessed the vehicle. Credit
Acceptance maintains that the alleged arbitration agreement
applies to the claims asserted by Vansteenburgh in the state
court action, that Vansteenburgh validly agreed to arbitrate,
and that Vansteenburgh is bound by the terms of the
arbitration agreement. Vansteenburgh argues in response that
his state court claims do not fall within the scope of the
arbitration agreement, and thus, that arbitration of his
state court claims is not warranted.
Analysis and Discussion
stated above, Credit Acceptance moves the Court to compel
arbitration under 9 U.S.C. § 4 of the Federal
Arbitration Act (the "FAA") based on the
arbitration agreement contained in the Retail Installment
Contract, and specifically argues, inter alia, that
the arbitration agreement is valid and enforceable with
respect to Vansteenburgh's state court claims against
Credit Acceptance inter alii.
Background of the Law on Arbitration
1925, Congress enacted the FAA in response to the
longstanding, widespread judicial hostility to arbitration
agreements that existed at English common law and was adopted
by American courts. See, e.g., Gilmer v.
Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 24,
111 S.Ct. 1647, 114 L.Ed.2d 26 (1991);
Am. Bankers Ins. Co. of Fla. v. Inman, 436 F.3d 490,
492-93 (5th Cir. 2006)."The FAA provides that a
'written provision in... a contract evidencing a
transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a
controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or
transaction ... shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable,
save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the
revocation of any contract.' " Marmet Health
Care Ctr., Inc. v. Brown, 565 U.S. 530, 532, 132 S.Ct.
1201, 182 L.Ed.2d 42 (2012) (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 2). It
"requires courts to enforce the bargain of the parties
to arbitrate, " Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. v.
Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 217, 105 S.Ct. 1238, 84 L.Ed.2d 158
(1985), and "reflects an emphatic federal policy in
favor of arbitral dispute resolution, " KPMG LLP v.
Cocchi, 565 U.S. 18, 21, 132 S.Ct. 23, 25, 181 L.Ed.2d
323 (2011) (per curiam) (quoting Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 631, 105
S.Ct. 3346, 87 L.Ed.2d 444 (1985) (internal quotation marks
omitted)). The FAA
does not mandate the arbitration of all claims, but merely
the enforcement-upon the motion of one of the parties-of
privately negotiated arbitration agreements. The House Report
accompanying the [FAA] makes clear that its purpose was to
place an arbitration agreement "upon the same footing as
other contracts, where it belongs, " H.R. Rep. No. 96,
68th Cong., 1 st Sess., 1 (1924), and to overrule the
judiciary's longstanding refusal to enforce agreements to
Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 470 U.S. at 219-20, 105
S.Ct. 1238. Because "arbitration is a matter of
contract, " courts must "rigorously enforce
arbitration agreements according to their terms."
Am. Express Co. v. Italian Colors Rest., ___ U.S.
___, ___, 133 S.Ct. 2304, 2309, 186 L.Ed.2d 417 (2013). Thus,
arbitration may be compelled only if the parties agreed to
arbitrate the dispute in question. See 9 U.S.C.
§ 4; Rent-A-Ctr., W., Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S.
63, 67-68, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010); Janvey
v. Alguire, 847 F.3d 231, 240 (5th Cir. 2017) (per
this backdrop, the Court assesses whether the parties agreed
to arbitrate the dispute in question using a two-step
process: (1) whether there is a valid agreement to arbitrate
between the parties; and (2) whether the dispute in question
falls within the scope of that arbitration agreement. See
Robinson v. J & K Admin. Mgmt. Servs., Inc., 817
F.3d 193, 195 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct.
373, 196 L.Ed.2d 292 (2016). If the Court finds that the
parties have a valid agreement to arbitrate and that the
dispute is within the scope of the arbitration agreement, the
Court generally examines whether any legal constraints
foreclose arbitration of those claims. See Brown v. Pac.
Life Ins. Co., 462 F.3d 384, 396 (5th Cir. 2006) (citing
Mitsubishi Motors Corp., A13 U.S. at 628, 105 S.Ct.
3346). Courts must "apply the federal policy favoring
arbitration when addressing ambiguities regarding whether a
question falls within an arbitration agreement's scope,
but... do not apply this policy when determining whether a
valid agreement exists." Sherer v. Green Tree
Servicing LLC, 548 F.3d 379, 381 (5th Cir. 2008).
See Volt Info. Scis., Inc. v. Bd. of Trs. of Leland
Stanford Jr. Univ., 489 U.S.468, 475-76, 109 S.Ct. 1248,
103 L.Ed.2d488 (1989); Banc One Acceptance Corp. v. Hill,
367 F.3d 426, 429 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing Will-Drill
Res., Inc. v. Samson Res. Co., 352 F.3d 211, 214 (5th
Cir. 2003)); Westmoreland v. Sadoux, 299 F.3d 462,
465 (5th Cir. 2002). The determination of whether a party is
bound by an arbitration agreement is included within the
broader issue of whether the parties agreed to arbitrate.
Bridas S.A.P.I.C v. Gov't of Turkmenistan, 345
F.3d 347, 355 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Smith/Enron
Cogeneration Ltd. P'ship, Inc. v. Smith Cogeneration
Int'l, Inc., 198 F.3d 88, 95 (2d Cir. 1999)).
"The purpose of the FAA is to give arbitration
agreements the same force and effect as other contracts-no
more and no less." Washington Mut. Fin. Grp., LLC v.
Bailey, 364 F.3d 260, 264 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing 9
U.S.C. § 2); see Pennzoil Expl. & Prod. Co. v.
Ramco Energy Ltd., 139 F.3d 1061, 1064 (5th Cir. 1998)
("[arbitration is a matter of contract between the
Subject Arbitration Provision
the foregoing case law in mind, the Court examines whether
the parties in the case sub judice agreed to
arbitrate the dispute, that is, whether a valid arbitration
agreement exists, and if so, whether the dispute is within
the scope of the arbitration agreement.
stated above, Vansteenburgh purchased a used 2004 GMC Sonoma
from Jerry Willis Motors, and as part of that transaction,
electronically signed the subject Retail Installment
Contract. Neither Vansteenburgh nor Credit Acceptance dispute
that the Retail Installment Contract contains a valid
arbitration provision or that there are no external
constraints that preclude arbitration of the claims brought
by Vansteenburgh in state court. Thus, the central question
is whether the arbitration provision covers the claims
alleged in Vansteenburgh's state court complaint. See
Ford Motor Co. v. Abies,207 Fed.Appx. 443, 446 (5th
Cir. 2006) (per curiam). In addressing questions of scope,
this Court is mindful that" 'due regard must be
given to the federal policy favoring arbitration, and
ambiguities as to the scope of the arbitration clause itself
must be resolved in favor of arbitration.' " See
Webb v. Investacorp, Inc.,89 F.3d 252, 258 (5th Cir.
1996) (quoting Volt Info. Scis., Inc., 489 U.S. at
475-76, 109 S.Ct. 1248). "Arbitration should not be
denied 'unless it can be said with positive assurance
that an ...