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Pedigo v. Robertson

Supreme Court of Mississippi

October 26, 2017

BRIAN RAY PEDIGO
v.
KRISTOPHER ROBERTSON, RENT-A-CENTER, INC. AND RENT-A-CENTER EAST, INC.

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/24/2016

         PRENTISS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. THOMAS J. GARDNER, III TRIAL JUDGE

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: THOMAS H. COMER, JR. GREG E. BEARD

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: GREG E. BEARD THOMAS H. COMER, JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: CHRISTOPHER DANIEL MEYER

          BEFORE WALLER, C.J., KITCHENS AND BEAM, JJ.

          BEAM, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. This appeal stems from Brian Ray Pedigo's suit against Rent-A-Center, Inc., for actual and punitive damages, alleging claims of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. After a preliminary review of the matter, the Prentiss County Circuit Court found in favor of Rent-A-Center, ruling that the parties entered a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement which covered Pedigo's claims. Such a ruling was in error. Though broad, the arbitration agreement did not contemplate Pedigo having to arbitrate his claim that Rent-A-Center maliciously swore out a criminal affidavit, causing his wrongful incarceration. Accordingly, we reverse the previous ruling and remand the case to the circuit court for further action consistent with this opinion.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On October 26, 2012, Brian Ray Pedigo visited Rent-A-Center, Inc.'s (RAC) Booneville, Mississippi, location. While in the store, Pedigo decided to make the rental-purchase of a back-lit, LED television and entered a Rental Purchase Agreement (RPA) for the lease. Under the RPA, Pedigo agreed to make specified payments over the course of twenty-three months, in an effort to own the television after all payments were remitted. Incorporated within the RPA was RAC's standard Consumer Arbitration Agreement (CAA). The CAA outlined those claims covered and those not covered in a dispute between the parties, and the process the parties would engage in should a dispute arise. Pedigo initialed and signed both documents, agreeing to the terms within.

         ¶3. By February 2013, Pedigo had failed to fulfill his payment obligations under the RPA and was more than twenty days past-due under the agreement. Finding the contract had been breached, RAC manager Kristopher Robinson sought to recover the television from Pedigo. Through his attempts at recovery, Robinson discovered that the television was pawned shortly after it was leased. RAC contacted the pawn shop, and its owner confirmed that the television was pawned at his store in November 2012, for $100.

         ¶4. After discovering Pedigo had pawned the television, Robinson filed a complaint with the Booneville police in April 2013. Robinson detailed that Pedigo had leased the television, pawned it roughly one month later, and still owed the store more than $1, 300 under the RPA. Based on this information, an arrest warrant for the theft of rental property was issued for Pedigo on May 1, 2013. He was indicted on October 22, 2013, for defrauding RAC, and was arrested and incarcerated on December 11, 2013. On June 9, 2014, the State retired the October 2013 felony charge, ending the prosecution of the criminal matter.

         ¶5. Following his release, Pedigo filed this civil action claiming that RAC filed a false report with the police which resulted in his incarceration-an act that he claims amounted to malicious prosecution. RAC responded to Pedigo's complaint with a motion to compel arbitration and stay the proceedings. Referencing the RPA and the CAA, RAC argued that Pedigo's claims are covered by the broad provisions of the arbitration agreement and the matter should be stayed for arbitration on the claims. On March 24, 2016, the circuit court judge ruled on the motion and found that the CAA met all elements required by courts of this state and the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), making the CAA enforceable under the circumstances in this matter. He then compelled the parties to move forward with arbitration and stayed the proceedings pending that outcome.

         ¶6. Aggrieved, Pedigo filed this appeal, presenting two issues for review. Because our ruling on the question of whether Pedigo's malicious prosecution claim is within the scope of the CAA settles the ...


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