Third Circuit Upholds Arbitration Agreement In Retail Installment Agreement Between Used Car Buyer And Dealer

Carlton Fields
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This dispute stemmed from a complaint filed by Edmondson, alleging claims under the Federal Odometer Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, as well as state law claims for fraud, in relation to her purchase of a used car from Lilliston Ford, Inc. That purchase was made pursuant to a Retail Installment Agreement (the “Agreement”), whereby Edmondson agreed to trade a 2004 Lincoln LS for an $800 credit towards the purchase of a used Ford Focus. Despite Edmondson experiencing problems with the Ford Focus shortly after her purchase, Lilliston refused her attempt to return the car and demanded title to the Lincoln or reimbursement for the $800 credit that Edmonson received for the purchase. The parties progressed to arbitration pursuant to the Agreement, where a AAA arbitrator issued an award dismissing all of Edmondson’s claims and ordering her to vest clear title to the Lincoln to Lilliston within 14 days, or to refund the $800 and remove the Lincoln from Lilliston’s property. The District Court for the District of New Jersey confirmed the award, and this appeal ensued.

On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court’s confirmation of the award and attorneys’ fees and costs to Lilliston. Reviewing the legal conclusions de novo and factual findings for clear error, the court found unpersuasive Edmonson’s argument that the arbitration clause was invalid because of Lilliston’s failure to register the arbitration provision with the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) and because Lilliston had previously stated that it had “severed all ties” with the AAA. In rejecting this argument, the court found irrelevant Lilliston’s ties with the AAA, since the AAA administers arbitrations even where there is no AAA clause between the parties. What is more, the AAA did not require businesses to register arbitration clauses with the AAA until after Edmonson filed her initial complaint. As such, the Third Circuit affirmed. Edmonson v. Lilliston Ford, Inc., Case No. 17-1991 (3d Cir. Jan. 11, 2018).

 

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