United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
RUTH D. BETTIS, Plaintiff,
SERRA NISSAN/OLDSMOBILE, INC., et al., Defendants.
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the court on the Motion to Reopen Case and
Motion to Confirm Arbitration Award filed by Defendants Serra
Nissan/Oldsmobile, Inc., Serra Volkswagen, Inc., Serra
Automotive, Inc., Serra Automotive Management, Inc., and
Anthony F. Serra (“Defendants”). (Doc. # 55). On
April 2, 2018, the court reopened this case for purposes of
addressing Defendants' Motion to Confirm Arbitration
Award. (Doc. # 58). The court ordered the parties to brief
the motion in accordance with Exhibit B to the court's
Initial Order, a copy of which was attached to the order.
(Id. at 1). Under that exhibit, Plaintiff's
opposition brief was due on April 13, 2018. (See Id.
at 3). The court mailed its order to Plaintiff at the address
her former counsel used to send Plaintiff his Motion to
Withdraw. (See Id. at 1; Doc. # 56 at 3). No.
response to Defendants' Motion to Confirm Arbitration
Award has been filed to date. Accordingly, the court
concludes that Defendants' Motion to Confirm is under
submission. After careful review, and for the reasons
explained below, the court concludes that Defendants'
Motion (Doc. # 55) is due to be granted.
Background and Procedural History
August 2016, Plaintiff filed this action in federal court.
(See Doc. # 1). In her Complaint, Plaintiff raised
federal-law claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organization Act, along with state-law claims of identity
theft, unjust enrichment, fraudulent concealment, negligence,
wantonness, negligent training, supervision, and retention,
and civil conspiracy. (See generally id.). In
December 2016, Defendants moved to compel arbitration of
Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. # 21). In response, Plaintiff
averred that she had not signed the retail order that
contained the arbitration clause Defendants sought to
enforce. (Doc. # 30-2 at 1-2). After limited discovery, the
court found material questions of fact regarding whether
Plaintiff had assented to an enforceable arbitration
agreement. (See Doc. # 38 at 2-4). Therefore, in
September 2017, the court conducted a bench trial to
determine whether Plaintiff had entered into an enforceable
arbitration agreement. (Docs. # 53 at 3; 54).
the bench trial, the parties agreed to dismiss this case
without prejudice and proceed to arbitration. (Doc. # 54 at
123). By agreement, Plaintiff had 90 days to decide whether
to arbitrate her claims. (Id.). Defendants reserved
“the right to assert appropriate counterclaims or
claims for costs before the arbitrator” if Plaintiff
proceeded to arbitration. (Id.). But, the parties
agreed to not file any motion for fees or costs with this
court pertaining to the bench trial and other proceedings.
(Id.). Defendants' counsel stated that the
matter would be closed in this court unless a party filed a
motion to enforce an arbitration award or a motion to set
aside an arbitrator's award. (Id. at 124).
Consistent with the parties' agreement, the court granted
Defendants' motion to compel arbitration and dismissed
this action without prejudice. (Doc. # 52 at 1).
November 1, 2017, Plaintiff submitted an agreement to
arbitrate to the Better Business Bureau. (Doc. # 55-3).
During the ensuing arbitration proceedings, Defendant Serra
Nissan denied Plaintiff's allegations, accused Plaintiff
of falsifying documents and submitting perjured testimony,
and requested costs and attorneys' fees for defending the
action. (Doc. # 55-1 at 1). Plaintiff testified before the
arbitrator that she had not signed certain documents when she
purchased a vehicle from Serra Nissan. (Id. at 3).
The arbitrator also heard testimony from a handwriting expert
presented by Defendants. (Id.). The handwriting
expert testified that the retail order presented by
Defendants contained Plaintiff's authentic signature and
that the retail order presented by Plaintiff contained a
forged signature. (Id. at 3-4).
arbitrator issued the following ruling:
Therefore, based upon the testimony and evidence received,
the undersigned finds for [ ] Serra Nissan and denies all
requested relief by Ms. Bettis. The undersigned examined
closely all the documents submitted, compared the signatures
himself, taking into consideration what the handwriting
expert looks for, and made his own conclusion as to the
documents. First of all, it is clear that the signature of
John Hall on the cash receipt does not match any of the known
signatures of Mr. Hall which is contained numerous times
throughout the documents. Second, it was compelling that the
co-signer Mr. Brewster was not present, nor gave an
affidavit, that his signature on the very same forms as Ms.
Bettis was a forgery. And lastly, after comparing the retail
orders supplied by both parties, it is clear to the
undersigned that the $8, 500 entry for the deposit does not
match the typeset of the [rest] of the documents, which leads
the undersigned to find that this was entered after the
contract was signed. Further, the math on the retail order
supplied by Ms. Bettis is inaccurate in that if $8, 500.00
was put down as contemplated, the unpaid balance would be
Further, I find that the award of attorney fees is proper
under these facts and circumstances and award attorney's
fees and costs to be paid by Ruth Bettis to Serra Nissan in
the amount of $28, 509.03.
(Id. at 5). Defendants have moved for the court to
enforce this arbitration award. (Doc. # 55).
retains jurisdiction to confirm or vacate an arbitration
award when it grants a motion to compel arbitration, as the
court did in this case. PTA-FLA, Inc. v. ZTE USA,
Inc., 844 F.3d 1299, 1305 (11th Cir. 2016). A party may
apply for the court to confirm an arbitration award within
one year of its issuance. 9 U.S.C. § 9. “This
provision ‘carries no hint of flexibility. On
application for an order confirming the arbitration award,
the court must grant the order unless the award is vacated,
modified, or corrected.'” PTA-FLA, 844
F.3d at 1306 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting
Hall Street Assocs., LLC v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S.
576, 587 (2008)). “The Federal Arbitration Act . . .
imposes a heavy presumption in favor of confirming
arbitration awards. As a result, a court's confirmation
of an arbitration award is usually routine or summary.”
Riccard v. Prudential Ins. Co., 307 F.3d 1277, 1288
(11th Cir. 2003). A party seeking to vacate an arbitration
award has the burden of proving one of four limited grounds
for vacatur. Id. at 1289.
Plaintiff has not challenged the validity of the arbitration
award. This is the case despite the fact that the court sent
notice to her of the motion. (Doc. # 58). Accordingly, the
court finds that Defendants' motion is due to be granted
and that the arbitration award is due to be confirmed.
See Riccard, 307 F.3d at 1288-89; Brice Building
Co. v. Lee, 2010 WL 11562098, at *1 (N.D. Ala. Sept. 30,
2010) (confirming an arbitration award where the losing party
failed to respond to the confirmation motion). An Order and
Final Judgment consistent with this Memorandum Opinion will