September 18, 2021

Volume XI, Number 261

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September 16, 2021

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Troubling Trend, Another Court Declines to Enforce Arbitration Clause

As we’ve covered, courts sometimes decline to enforce arbitration clauses despite federal public policy favoring arbitration. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently continued this trend in a consumer dispute over the repossession of a Jeep Wrangler. Johnson v. Westlake Portfolio Mgmt., LLC, No. 8:20-cv-749, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 168538 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 15, 2020).

The dispute began when Mr. Gary Johnson purchased a Jeep Wrangler from a car dealer under a Retail Installment Contract.  Id. at *1. The next year, his wife, Tammy Johnson, called and tried to make a payment for the Jeep Wrangler. Id. at *2. The dealer initially refused because she was not a party to the contract. Id. Eventually, however, the dealer accepted payment from Ms. Johnson, and then, repossessed the Jeep Wrangler anyway. Id. Meanwhile, the car dealer continued to call Ms. Johnson’s cell phone, “despite Ms. Johnson repeatedly informing Defendant that it was not his [Mr. Johnson’s] cell phone numbers.” Id.

Mr. and Ms. Johnson eventually sued the dealer, including asserting a TCPA claim. Id. at *4. The dealer moved to compel arbitration because the Retail Installment Contract included a clause requiring arbitration of “any claim or dispute.” Id. at *4. The Court declined to enforce arbitration against Ms. Johnson because she did not sign the contract, and equitable estoppel did not apply because her claims (including the TCPA claim) did not depend on the contract. Id. at *4. “Because these claims are independent of the [contract,] Ms. Johnson cannot be compelled to arbitrate these claims.” Id. at *7 (citing Florida precedent). And Mr. Johnson did not want to litigate in a different forum, so the Court did not compel him to arbitrate either. Id. 

The takeaway here is that even an arbitration clause that governs “any and all” claims may not.

© Copyright 2021 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 261
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About this Author

Brent Owen Energy Litigation Attorney Squire Patton Boggs Denver, CO
Senior Associate

Brent Owen represents energy, mining, construction, consumer services, and political clients in high-stakes litigation at trial and on appeal. Brent’s college experience as a full-scholarship Division I offensive lineman allows him to appreciate the value of consistent hard work in achieving a favorable result.

His experience includes all aspects of litigation, including trials in both state and federal courts before judges and juries and in arbitration tribunals, including the International Chamber of Commerce and the American Arbitration Association. A former law clerk to the...

303-894-6111
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