United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
Hannah Lauck, United Stalls District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on five motions:
(1) Defendant Mariner Finance, LLC's
("Mariner") Motion to Enforce the Parties'
Agreement, Compel Arbitration, and to Dismiss the Amended
Complaint (the "Motion to Compel Arbitration"),
(ECF No. 3);
(2) Plaintiff Lamont Harris's Motion to Remand, (ECF No.
(3) Harris's Letter Motion, (ECF No. 9);
(4) Harris's Motion to Dismiss "Defendants Claims
and Immediate Judgment in the Favor of the Plaintiff
("Harris's Motion to Dismiss"), (ECF No.
(5) Mariner's "Motion to Strike Plaintiffs
'Response in Support of Dismissal of Defendant's
Claims and Immediate Judgment in Favor of the Plaintiff"
(the "Motion to Strike"), (ECF No.
matter is ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral
argument because the materials before it adequately present
the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid
the decisional process. The Court exercises jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons that
follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Compel Arbitration
and dismiss this action without prejudice. The Court will
deny Harris's Motion to Remand and Harris's Letter
Motion. The Court will also deny as moot Harris's Motion
to Dismiss and Mariner's Motion to Strike.
Factual and Procedural History
General Allegations and Procedural
August 2013, Harris, a Virginia resident, served as a
co-signor for a vehicle purchased at a Virginia car
dealership, Auto By Design, LLC. (Am. Compl. ¶ 4; Mem.
Supp. Mot. Compel 1, ECF No. 4.) As part of the vehicle
purchase, Harris and the buyer entered into a Retail
Installment Sale Contract (the "Loan Contract"),
which allegedly contained an addendum entitled "Notice
of Arbitration Agreement" (the "Arbitration
Agreement"). (Mem. Supp. Mot. Compel 1.)
same day that Harris and the buyer purchased the car, Auto By
Design, LLC assigned the car loan to Mariner, a Maryland
limited liability corporation. (Id.) Specifically,
the Loan Contract stated "Seller assigns its
interest in this contract to Mariner Finance." (Mem.
Supp. Mot. Compel Ex. A "Loan Contract" 4, ECF No.
alleges that the vehicle purchased through the Loan Contract
"was repossessed and resold in 2015." (Harris's
Mot. Dismiss 1-2, ECF No. 11.)
four claims arise out of Mariner's alleged violations of
the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the "FCRA") when
Mariner, among other things, furnished information about a
debt Harris allegedly owed after he submitted "proof...
to the contrary, as well as written notification from all 3
credit bureaus." (Am. Comp. ¶ 11.) Harris also
states that Mariner violated the FCRA when it "failed to
respond to ... disputes," "illegally pulled his
credit report without his permission," and
"pulled" his "credit report without his
permission, in addition to obtaining information under false
pretenses." (Id. ¶¶ 14, 19, 26.)
originally filed his Amended Complaint in the Circuit Court
for the City of Richmond (the "Richmond Circuit
Court"). (Not. Removal 1.) Mariner properly removed the
action to this Court invoking the Court's federal
question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because
Harris's Amended Complaint seeks relief solely under the
FCRA. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
removing the case to this Court, Mariner filed the instant
Motion to Compel Arbitration. Harris's Motion to Remand,
Letter Motion, and his Motion to Dismiss followed. In
response to Harris's Motion to Dismiss, Mariner filed the
Motion to Strike.
Allegations Related to the Arbitration Agreement
attached the executed Loan Contract and Arbitration Agreement
as exhibits to its Memorandum in Support of the Motion to
Compel Arbitration. (See ECF No. 4-1.) Mariner also
attached a sworn declaration (the "Declaration")
from a Branch Manager attesting, under penalty of perjury,
that the documents constituted "a true and authentic
copy of the at-issue Retail Installment Sale Contract and its
Addendum, both executed by Lamont Harris on
August 17, 2013." (Decl. 1, ECF No. 4-2.) The
Declaration states that the Loan Contract and the Arbitration
Agreement "comprise the entire agreement between Lamont
Harris and the assignee, Mariner Finance, LLC."
Arbitration Agreement specifies that the Federal Arbitration
Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 (the "FAA"), governs the
Arbitration Agreement and that it broadly applies
to any claim, dispute, or controversy (whether based upon
contract, tort, intentional or otherwise, constitution,
statute, common law, or equity and whether preexisting,
present or future), including initial claims ... arising from
or relating to: this contract the closing, servicing,
collection, or enforcement of the contract; or the
relationships that result from this contract
Agreement 1, ECF No. 4-1.) The Arbitration Agreement excludes
certain claims from the scope of this broad application,
(1) we may exercise lawful self-help remedies (such as
repossession of collateral) and we may proceed in court for
garnishment, repossession, replevin, and foreclosure
remedies; and (2) you or we may bring a lawsuit in court to
recover up to $5, 000.00 (including costs and attorneys'
fees) for yourself or ourselves only, not for any class or
group of persons having similar claims......We also agree not
to elect to arbitrate an individual Claim you bring in small
claims court or an equivalent court, so long as the Claim is
pending only in that court.
(Id.) Although the Arbitration Agreement states that
"[y]ou may reject this arbitration agreement... by
sending a rejection notice ... within 60 days after the date
of this contract" to a specified address, nothing in the
record indicates that Harris ever rejected the Arbitration
Harris maintains throughout his numerous filings that he
never signed the Arbitration Agreement. (See, e.g.,
Resp. Mot. Compel 1, ECF No. 7.) Harris also states that
"he has never seen these statements, contacts [sic],
agreements, nor even had any prior conversations with the
defendants pertaining to any arbitration agreements."
(Id. 2.) He avers that at the time he acted as a
cosigner on the loan he "was actually working as a car
salesman at a car dealership & are [sic] familiar and
trained on handling arbitration agreements, contract
agreements, etc." (Harris's Mot. Dismiss 3.)
Although Harris maintains that his purported signature on the
Arbitration Agreement constitutes a forgery, he provides
nothing beyond his own assertions to support his forgery
Court Will Grant the Motion to Compel Arbitration and Dismiss
this Case to Allow Harris and Mariner to Arbitrate
Harris's FCRA Claims
The Federal Arbitration Act
passed the FAA "'to reverse the longstanding
judicial hostility to arbitration agreements ... and to place
arbitration agreements upon the same footing as other
contracts.'" Green Tree Fin. Corp.-Ala. v.
Randolph, 531 U.S. 79, 89 (2000) (quoting Gilmer v.
Interstate/ Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 24
(1991) (alteration in original)). The FAA provides that a
written agreement to arbitrate "shall be valid,
irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist
at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract."
9 U.S.C. § 2. Section 2 limits the scope of the FAA to
written contracts involving commerce. Id. "The
effect of th[is] section is to create a body of federal
substantive law of arbitrability, applicable to any
arbitration agreement within the coverage of the Act."
Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr.
Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24(1983).
court determines that the parties entered into a written
agreement to arbitrate the underlying dispute, Section 4
directs courts to compel arbitration if necessary. 9 U.S.C.
§ 4. The FAA gives district courts no discretion to do
By its terms, the Act leaves no place for the exercise of
discretion by a district court, but instead mandates that
district courts shall direct the parties to proceed
to arbitration on issues as to which an arbitration agreement
has been signed. Thus, insofar as the language of the Act
guides [the] disposition of [a] case, we would conclude that