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COA: arbitration provision null and void

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the denial of a payday loan company’s motion to compel arbitration in a lawsuit filed by a customer. The COA relied on a nearly identical case involving the same plaintiff in which another appellate panel found that since the arbitrator named in the agreement is no longer available, the arbitration provision is null and void on grounds of impossibility.

In Apex 1 Processing, Inc. v. Akeala Edwards, on Behalf of Herself and Others Similarly Situated, No. 49A05-1103-PL-85, Akeala Edwards filed a class-action lawsuit against Apex 1 Processing Inc., alleging it engaged in unfair trade practices. She got a payday loan through Apex’s company doing business as Paycheck Today, and she was charged $360 in finance charges on her $300 loan. The suit has not yet been certified as a class action.

Apex sought to compel Edwards to arbitrate her claim individually based on a provision in the loan agreement. The National Arbitration Forum was named as the arbitrator to be used, but the NAF has been ordered to not participate in any arbitration of consumer disputes after July 2009 based on a suit filed by the Minnesota attorney general.

This suit is similar to one Edwards filed against Geneva-Roth Capital Inc. An appellate panel in November found that the arbitration provision in that suit was null and void on the grounds of impossibility because NAF is not longer available to arbitrate. At the time, the issue was one of first impression in Indiana. In Geneva-Roth Capital v. Edwards, No. 49A02-1101-PL-43, the COA also found that 9 U.S.C.A. Section 5 of the Federal Arbitration Act does not oblige the trial court to appoint a substitute arbitrator.

“The language of the Apex contract, like that in the Geneva-Roth contract, provides claims ‘shall be resolved by binding . . . arbitration by and under the Code of Procedure of [NAF],’” wrote Judge Melissa May. “Thus, the identification of NAF as the arbitrator was integral to the contract, and the arbitration provision fails.”

The panel in the instant case adopted the reasoning in Geneva-Roth and affirmed the denial of Apex 1’s motion to compel arbitration.

 

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  1. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  2. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

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