United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
H. Miller Senior United St H. District Judge
before the court is defendant Credit Acceptance
Corporation's (“Credit Acceptance”) motion to
compel arbitration (Dkt. 15), and defendants Daniel Bliss
(“Bliss”) and Collateral Recovery Team LLC's
(“Collateral”) alternative motions to compel
arbitration or dismiss the complaint (Dkt. 25). Plaintiff
Stephanie LaRue (“LaRue”) responded to each
(Dkts. 19, 32), and Credit Acceptance replied (Dkt. 20).
After considering the motions, responses, reply, and
applicable law, the court is of the opinion that the motions
to compel arbitration should be GRANTED, and the motion to
dismiss should be DENIED as moot.
dispute is about a retail installment sales contract, the
related used car, and an attempt to repossess it. LaRue
purchased a used car (the “Vehicle”) from Auto
Nations Inc. (“Auto Nations”) on August 20, 2016,
and entered into a retail installment sales contract (the
“Agreement”) that gave Auto Nations a security
interest in the Vehicle. Dkt. 1 at 2. Auto Nations assigned
the Agreement and security interest to Credit Acceptance.
Agreement included a full page arbitration clause that
permitted either LaRue or Credit Acceptance to “require
any Dispute to be arbitrated . . . before or after a lawsuit
has been started over the Dispute.” Dkt. 15-1 at 8.
Dispute is defined as:
any controversy or claim . . . arising out of or in any way
related to [the Agreement], including, but not limited to,
any default under [the Agreement], the collection of amounts
due under [the Agreement], the purchase, sale, delivery,
set-up, quality of the Vehicle, advertising for the Vehicle
or its financing, or any product or service included in [the
Agreement]. ‘Dispute' shall have the broadest
meaning possible, and includes contract claims, and claims
based on tort, violations of laws, statutes, ordinances or
regulations or any other legal or equitable theories.
Id. Excepted from this broad definition are any
claims brought in small claims court as well as:
any repossession of the Vehicle upon [LaRue's] default
and any exercise of the power of sale of the Vehicle under
[the Agreement] or any individual action by [LaRue] to
prevent [Credit Acceptance] from using any such remedy, so
long as such individual action does not involve a request for
monetary relief of any kind.
between August 2016 and January 2019, Credit Acceptance
notified LaRue that she was behind on her loan. Dkt. 1 at 2.
On January 18, 2019, Credit Acceptance engaged Collateral to
repossess the Vehicle. Id. Collateral in turn sent
Bliss to LaRue's home where the Vehicle was located.
Id. LaRue met Bliss outside her home as he backed
his tow truck into her driveway in order to repossess the
Vehicle. Id. LaRue immediately objected to the
repossession, but Bliss continued his efforts. Id.
An altercation ensued during which Bliss allegedly injured
LaRue while forcing his way into the Vehicle. Id. at
2-3. Bliss eventually left without taking possession of the
Vehicle. Id. at 3.
filed suit in this court on March 20, 2019, alleging
violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the
Texas Business & Commerce Code, the Texas Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, assault, and battery. Id.
at 3-5. LaRue seeks monetary relief for each cause of action.
Acceptance filed its motion to compel arbitration on May 1,
2019. Dkt. 15. Collateral and Bliss filed their own motion to
compel arbitration on August 12, 2019. Dkt. 25. All
defendants assert the Agreement unambiguously applies to
LaRue's claims and therefore the court must send the
dispute to arbitration and dismiss the lawsuit. See
Dkt. 15, 25. LaRue contends that the arbitration clause
excludes “any disputes about repossession, on any
theory, ” from its definition of Dispute, and
therefore, her claims are not subject to mandatory
arbitration under the Agreement. Dkt. 19 at 7.
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) provides that a
written agreement to arbitrate, in a contract involving
interstate commerce, “shall be valid, irrevocable, and
enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in
equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C.
§ 2. Determining whether parties should be compelled to
arbitrate involves two steps: “(1) is there a valid
agreement to arbitrate the claims and (2) does the dispute in
question fall within the scope of the arbitration
agreement.” Klein v. Nabors Drilling USA,
L.P., 710 F.3d 234, 236 (5th Cir. 2013). Whether there
is a valid agreement to arbitrate “is governed by
ordinary state-law contract principles.” Id.
The second inquiry is governed by the “federal