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Hefter v. Charlie Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 19, 2017

STEVEN BRUCE HEFTER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHARLIE, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is before the court on the Renewed Motion to Stay Action and Compel Plaintiffs to Submit Their Claims to Binding Arbitration (Doc. # 56), filed by Defendant Charlie, Inc., d/b/a Serra Hyundai (“Defendant Serra Hyundai” or “Serra Hyundai”) on June 6, 2017, and the Motion to Stay Action and Compel Plaintiffs to Submit Their Claims to Binding Arbitration (Doc. # 58), filed by Defendant Christopher Cone (“Defendant Cone” or “Cone”) on June 14, 2017. The Motions have been fully briefed. (See Docs. # 56; 58; 60; 62). For the reasons stated below, the court concludes that Defendant Serra Hyundai's Motion (Doc. # 56) and Defendant Cone's Motion (Doc. # 58) are due to be granted.

         I. Procedural Background and Relevant Facts

         On September 24, 2016, Brittany Cherie White (“White”) and Steven Bruce Hefter (“Hefter”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) left Serra Hyundai with a new car. (See Docs. # 52 at ¶ 45; 56 at 1; 60 at 2). Plaintiffs purchased the car using an installment plan. (Docs. # 52 at ¶¶ 14-15, 21; 60-11). Cone, an employee of Serra Hyundai, served as the Finance Manager for Plaintiffs' purchase. (Docs. # 52 at ¶ 28; 56-1 at 1-2). Before departing with the new car, Plaintiffs signed several documents. (See Docs. # 52 at ¶¶ 8, 17; 60 at 2-3).

         The documents most relevant to the pending Motions (Docs. # 56; 58) are the Retail Buyers Order (Docs. # 60-10; 56-1 at 4-5), the Retail Installment Sale Contract (Doc. # 60-11), and the Delivery Receipt (Doc. # 60-6). The Retail Buyers Order contains the following agreement to arbitrate disputes:

         The Undersigned Purchaser and Seller, voluntarily WAIVE ANY RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL, and further agree as follows:

(1) That the motor vehicle described in this sale document has been heretofore traveling in interstate commerce and has had an impact on interstate commerce.
(2) That in the event of any dispute(s), between the parties hereto or in the event of any dispute(s) arising out of or related to this contract, (including but not limited to the terms of the agreement, the condition of the motor vehicle sold, the conformity of the motor vehicle sold to the contract, the representations, promises, undertakings or covenants made by Seller, Inc. in connection with the sale of the motor vehicle, or otherwise dealing with a motor vehicle; any terms of financing in connection therewith, or any terms of any credit life and/or disability insurance purchased simultaneously herewith, or extended service or maintenance agreement(s), that Seller, and the purchaser agree to submit such dispute(s) to binding arbitration, pursuant to the provisions of 9 U.S.C. 1, et seq. and according to the commercial rules of the American Arbitration Association then existing in Alabama.
(3) That in the event any dispute arises between purchaser and seller, its officers, agents and employees, the said dispute will be submitted to binding arbitration pursuant to 9 U.S.C. et seq. and according to the commercial rules of the American Arbitration Association then existing in Alabama.
(4) (A) That in the event any dispute arises between the parties, as to the conformity or condition of the motor vehicle, the parties will permit a third party (to be mutually agreed upon), to inspect the motor vehicle to determine its conformity and condition, and that the findings of such third-party shall be binding upon Seller, and the purchaser, in connection with any litigation, arbitration or request for adjustment, pursuant to the provisions of the 1975 code of Alabama.
(B) In the event Seller and the purchaser cannot agree upon a third-party to conduct such inspection, either party shall have the right to petition any court of competent jurisdiction, or panel of arbitrations, to appoint an expert to act as such third party.
(C) The cost of such third-party inspection shall be borne equally by Seller and the purchaser or as may be directed by any court or panel of arbitrators.
(5) This Arbitration agreement constitutes part of your retail buyers order.

(Docs. # 56 at 2; # 56-1 at 4; 60-10 at 2-3). The Retail Buyers Order also provides as follows:

This order shall not become binding upon either the Purchaser or the Seller until the vehicle described above is physically delivered and Purchaser has received the Disclosures required under Federal Law, if applicable, in the case of a credit sale, the Seller shall not be obligated to sell until a finance source approves this Order and agrees to purchase a ...

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