United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
STEPHANIE S. SULLIVAN, Plaintiff,
PNC BANK, N.A., ABSOLUTE RECOVERY SERVICES, INC., JOHN DOE CORPORATION, and JOHN DOE's 1 and 2, Defendants.
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on consideration of Defendant PNC
Bank's Motion to Compel Arbitration and to Stay Claims
Pending Arbitration (Doc. # 19), filed on August 22, 2019.
Plaintiff Stephanie S. Sullivan responded in opposition on
August 29, 2019. (Doc. # 20). PNC Bank replied on September
9, 2019. (Doc. # 25). For the reasons that follow, the Motion
August 19, 2014, Sullivan entered into a finance agreement to
purchase a used 2012 Hyundai automobile from Hyundai of
Bradenton. (Doc. # 1-2 at 4). The finance agreement was later
assigned to PNC. (Id. at 2, 5; Doc. # 19 at 2).
Sullivan eventually fell behind on her payments to PNC and
the car was repossessed. (Doc. # 1-2 at 5).
then initiated this action in state court on June 26, 2019,
bringing claims arising from that repossession. (Id.
at 1). Specifically, the Complaint asserts claims for
violations of the Uniform Commercial Code, the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, the Florida Consumer Collection
Practices Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as for
trespass to chattels, negligence, battery, and assault.
(Id. at 7-16). PNC removed the case to this Court on
the basis of federal question jurisdiction on August 1, 2019.
(Doc. # 3).
seeks to compel arbitration based on an arbitration provision
in the finance agreement and to stay all claims pending
arbitration. (Doc. # 19). Defendant Absolute Recovery
Services, Inc. adopted and joined in PNC's Motion on
September 5, 2019. (Doc. # 22). Sullivan has responded to the
Motion (Doc. # 20), and PNC has replied. (Doc. # 25). The
Motion is ripe for review.
determining whether to refer a matter to arbitration, a court
must conduct a two-step inquiry. Klay v. All Defendants, 389
F.3d 1191, 1200 (11th Cir. 2004). First, the court must
determine whether the parties agreed to arbitrate.
Id. Second, the court must decide whether any
“legal constraints external to the parties'
agreement foreclosed arbitration.” Id. Only
the first step is relevant here.
argues that the case must be arbitrated pursuant to the terms
of the finance agreement. (Doc. # 19). The finance agreement,
a two-page document, includes an arbitration provision at the
bottom of the second page. The arbitration provision provides
in relevant part:
Any claim or dispute, whether in contract, tort, statute or
otherwise (including the Interpretation and scope of this
Arbitration Provision, and the arbitrability of the claim or
dispute), between you and us or our employees, agents,
successors or assigns, which arises out of or relates to your
credit application, purchase or condition of this vehicle,
this contract or nay resulting transaction or relationship
(including any such relationship with third parties who do
not sign this contract) shall, at your or our election, be
resolved by neutral, binding arbitration and not by court
(Doc. # 1-2 at 23). There is no signature line beneath the
arbitration provision. (Id.). But on the first page
of the finance agreement, there is a separate
“agreement to arbitrate” provision with a
signature line below it. (Id. at 21). This separate
provision provides in pertinent part:
Agreement to Arbitrate. By signing below,
you agree that, pursuant to the Arbitration Provision on the
reverse side of this contract, you or we may elect to resolve
any dispute by neutral, binding arbitration and not by a
court action. See the Arbitration Provision for additional
information concerning the agreement to arbitrate.
argues she did not agree to arbitrate her claims because she
never signed the agreement to arbitrate provision. (Doc. # 20
at 4). This Court agrees. PNC's ...