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Court rules arbitration provision null and void

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Tackling an issue of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that an arbitration provision in a loan agreement from a payday loan provider is null and void on the grounds of impossibility because the arbitrator named in the document is no longer available.

In Geneva-Roth Capital, Inc., et al. v. Akeala Edwards, No. 49A02-1101-PL-43, Akeala Edwards filed a lawsuit, on her behalf and a purported class, against LoanPoint USA claiming the loan agreement she entered into with the company violated the Indiana Consumer Credit Code’s Small Loans Act. She filled out an online application for a $300 loan, and part of the agreement included an arbitration provision that said the parties must arbitrate any disputes and that National Arbitration Forum would handle the disputes. Over the course of 90 days, LoanPoint USA deducted more than $700 in finance charges from Edwards’ account and only applied $23 to her original loan balance.

LoanPoint USA moved to stay the proceedings and compel Edwards to arbitrate her claim on an individual basis; Edwards argued since NAF was no longer available to arbitrate – the company was ordered by a Minnesota state court to not participate in any disputes after July 2009 based on fraud allegations filed by the Minnesota attorney general – the arbitration portion is invalid and unenforceable. The trial court concluded that the arbitration provision was null and void as impossible to perform since NAF is no longer available to serve in such a capacity. The trial court also found it could not appoint a replacement arbitrator pursuant to 9 U.S.C.A. Section 5 of the Federal Arbitration Act.

The appellate court looked to several jurisdictions – which have reached opposite results – to decide whether an arbitration agreement fails due to impossibility if the chosen forum cannot serve as arbitrator or if the trial court is obliged to appoint a substitute arbitrator pursuant to Section 5. The COA agreed with the rulings in Rivera v. Am. Gen. Fin. Servs. Inc., (259 P.3d 803 N.M. 2011), and Ranzy v. Tijernina, 393 F. App’x 174 (5th Cir. 2010), which found similar provisions to be null because they would be impossible to perform since the named arbitrator no longer could perform the duty.

“Having concluded that the NAF as the arbitral forum was integral to the arbitration agreement, and given that the NAF is no longer available to conduct consumer arbitrations, the arbitration provision is null and void on grounds of impossibility. Section 5 does not save the arbitration provision and cannot be used as a mechanism to appoint a substitute arbitrator. The trial court did not err in denying LoanPoint USA’s motion to compel arbitration,” wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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