from Marshall Circuit Court (CV-16-900022).
Bevel appeals from an order granting a motion to compel
arbitration. We reverse and remand.
March 2015, Bevel financed the purchase of a used Bennington
brand boat and a Yamaha brand boat motor from Guntersville
Boat Mart, Inc., and he rented a boat slip on Lake
Guntersville to dock the boat. The sale and boat-slip rental
are documented by a one-page bill of sale, which contains an
arbitration provision. According to Bevel, the boat was
seized several months after the transaction for allegedly
defaulting on payments on the boat and boat-slip rental.
Bevel disputes that he owed those payments.
sued Guntersville Boat Mart and related entities Marine
Group, LLC, d/b/a Boat Mart, and JD & L Enterprises, Inc.
In his complaint, Bevel asserted several claims, including
breach of contract. The defendants filed a motion to compel
arbitration, citing the arbitration provision in the bill of
sale. Bevel argued that his claims were not subject to the
arbitration provision in the bill of sale because, he said,
he had not actually agreed to that provision. Bevel noted
that he had not initialed a box directly below the
arbitration provision, although he had signed or initialed
the document in other places. Following a hearing, the trial
court granted the motion to compel arbitration. Bevel
appealed to this Court under Rule 4(d), Ala. R. App. P.,
which authorizes an appeal from an order either granting or
denying a motion to compel arbitration.
"'This Court's review of an order granting or
denying a motion to compel arbitration is de novo. ...'
"United Wisconsin Life Ins. Co. v. Tankersley,
880 So.2d 385, 389 (Ala. 2003). Furthermore:
"'"A motion to compel arbitration is analogous
to a motion for summary judgment. TranSouth Fin. Corp. v.
Bell, 739 So.2d 1110, 1114 (Ala. 1999). The party
seeking to compel arbitration has the burden of proving the
existence of a contract calling for arbitration and proving
that that contract evidences a transaction affecting
interstate commerce. Id. 'After a motion to
compel arbitration has been made and supported, the burden is
on the non-movant to present evidence that the supposed
arbitration agreement is not valid or does not apply to the
dispute in question.'"
"'Fleetwood Enters., Inc. v. Bruno, 784
So.2d 277, 280 (Ala. 2000) (quoting Jim Burke Auto., Inc.
v. Beavers, 674 So.2d 1260, 1265 n. 1 (Ala. 1995)
"Vann v. First Cmty. Credit Corp., 834 So.2d
751, 753 (Ala. 2002)."
Cartwright v. Maitland, 30 So.3d 405, 408-09 (Ala.
argues that the trial court erred in granting the motion to
compel arbitration because, he says, he did not agree to the
arbitration provision in the bill of sale. Thus, he argues,
the arbitration provision never became part of the contract
between the parties. Bevel's argument focuses on what he
did and did not initial or sign on the one-page bill of sale.
signed or initialed the bill of sale in two places -- he
initialed a box indicating that the boat was being sold
"as is, " and he signed on a line at the bottom of
the document regarding his receipt of the boat and the
acknowledgment of the boat's condition. He did not,
however, initial the box under the arbitration provision, and
he did not initial the box under the trade-in section (the
sale did not involve a trade-in). The arbitration provision
is on the bottom half of the bill of sale. Directly below the
arbitration provision, on the left side of the document, is
an indented box for the purchaser's initials. Bevel,
however, did not initial that box. Also below the arbitration
provision, on the right side of the document but slightly
lower than the left-side box, is an indented box for the
purchaser's initials labeled "BOAT SOLD AS IS";
Bevel did initial that box. Directly below the two boxes is
the following text concerning Bevel's receipt of the boat
and the boat's condition:
"I have received all of the above listed in good
condition and accept final delivery.
"The purchaser herein acknowledges that this vehicle may
have had mechanical and/or body repair. Said vehicle may have
suffered damage during production, transit, while in the
possession of a prior owner, or in the possession of the
seller. The seller makes no representations as to ...