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Smith v. T-Mobile USA, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

April 5, 2018

Moses Lee Smith, Plaintiff,
v.
T-Mobile USA, Inc., MetroPCS, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Moses Lee Smith, who is self-represented, filed this civil action in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas against the defendant, T-Mobile USA, Inc., MetroPCS (“MetroPCS”), who subsequently removed it to the United States District Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. The plaintiff alleges that MetroPCS breached his service agreement, asserting claims for invasion of privacy, breach of trust and contract, and negligence. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.) for a Report and Recommendation on the defendant's motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion to stay. (ECF No. 21.) Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), the court advised Smith of the summary judgment and dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately to the defendants' motion. (ECF No. 22.) Smith filed a response in opposition (ECF No. 26), and the defendant replied (ECF No. 27).[1] Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the court finds that the defendant's motion should be granted.

         DISCUSSION

         A litigant can compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1, et seq., if the litigant can demonstrate: “(1) the existence of a dispute between the parties; (2) a written agreement that includes an arbitration provision which purports to cover the dispute; (3) the relationship of the transaction, which is evidenced by the agreement, to interstate or foreign commerce; and (4) the failure, neglect or refusal of the [party] to arbitrate the dispute.” Am. Gen. Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Wood, 429 F.3d 83, 87 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Adkins v. Labor Ready, Inc., 303 F.3d 496, 500-01 (4th Cir. 2002)). The FAA provides that written arbitration agreements “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. The policy behind the FAA “was to reverse the longstanding judicial hostility to arbitration agreements that had existed at English common law and had been adopted by American courts, and to place arbitration agreements upon the same footing as other contracts.” Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 24 (1991). Thus, courts are to afford a “healthy regard” for the federal policy favoring arbitration, id. at 26, and arbitration agreements are to be “rigorously enforced, ” Perry v. Thomas, 482 U.S. 483, 490 (1987). Doubts regarding the scope of issues covered by an arbitration agreement must be resolved in favor of arbitration. Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1983).

         When a question of arbitrability arises, the district court, not the arbitrator, decides whether a matter should be resolved through arbitration. See Granite Rock Co. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 561 U.S. 287, 299-301 (2010); First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 942-44 (1995); AT&T Tech., Inc. v. Commc'ns Workers of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 651 (1986). This determination, however, is limited to a two-step inquiry: (1) whether a valid arbitration agreement exists; and (2) whether the specific dispute falls within the substantive scope of the arbitration agreement. See Hooters of Am., Inc. v. Phillips, 173 F.3d 933, 938 (4th Cir. 1999); see also Chorley Enters., Inc. v. Dickey's Barbeque Rests., Inc., 807 F.3d 553, 563 (4th Cir. 2015). Arbitration is compelled “unless it may be said with positive assurance that the arbitration [agreement] is not susceptible of an interpretation that covers the asserted dispute.” Peoples Sec. Life Ins. Co. v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 867 F.2d 809, 812 (4th Cir. 1989) (quoting United Steelworkers of Am. v. Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582-83 (1960)). If all of the claims asserted in a complaint are subject to arbitration, dismissal of the complaint is appropriate. Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. BSR Tropicana Resort, Inc., 252 F.3d 707, 709-10 (4th Cir. 2001).

         In support of its motion, MetroPCS has presented evidence of a valid arbitration agreement that covers the dispute at issue, which arises out of the plaintiff's cell service with MetroPCS. In opposition to MetroPCS's motion, the plaintiff does not dispute that showing; rather, he argues that because MetroPCS breached the contract regarding his service, he is excused from performing under the arbitration provision. This argument, however, is not supported in the law. See, e.g., 4 Am. Jur. 2d Alternative Dispute Resolution § 56 (collecting cases holding that a party that breaches or repudiates a contract may nonetheless claim the benefit of an arbitration clause therein and compel arbitration); see also Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 70 (2010) (“[A] party's challenge to another provision of the contract, or to the contract as a whole, does not prevent a court from enforcing a specific agreement to arbitrate.”).

         RECOMMENDATION

         Accordingly, Defendant MetroPCS's motion should be granted, and this matter should be dismissed with an order compelling arbitration. (ECF No. 21.) In light of the court's recommendation, Smith's motions for subpoenas and to proceed in forma pauperis should be terminated as moot. (ECF Nos. 9 & 10.)

         The parties' attention is directed to the important notice on the next page.

         Notice of Right to File Objections to Report and Recommendation

         The parties are advised that they may file specific written objections to this Report and Recommendation with the District Judge. Objections must specifically identify the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections are made and the basis for such objections. “[I]n the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.' ” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         Specific written objections must be filed within fourteen (14) days of the date of service of this Report and Recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a), (d). Filing by mail pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5 may be accomplished by mailing objections to:

Robin L. Blume, Clerk United States District Court 901 Richland Street Columbia, South Carolina 29201

         Failure to timely file specific written objections to this Report and Recommendation will result in waiver of the right to appeal from a judgment of the District Court based upon such Recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985); Wright v. Collins, 7 ...


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