United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
C. COGGINS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss and Compel Arbitration. ECF No. 5. Plaintiff filed a
Response in Opposition, and Defendants filed a Reply. ECF
Nos. 7, 8.
about February 13, 2017, Plaintiff purchased “The
Louis” mobile home from Southern Homes of Florence. ECF
No. 1-1 at 15. Defendant Clayton Homes of
Florencearranged delivery and set-up of the mobile
home. Id. Defendant Southern Energy Homes, Inc.
manufactured the mobile home. ECF Nos. 1-1 at 16, 5-1 at 2.
contends that the mobile home was damaged significantly
during transport. ECF No. 1-1 at 16. He asserts that the
“ceilings were cracked, exposed beams in the home were
broken, walls were broken and falling, light fixtures had
fallen out of the ceiling, crown molding and trim was
missing, and the vinyl siding was damaged.”
Id. Plaintiff alleges that a crew sent by one or all
of the Defendants came to repair the mobile home, and he and
his family moved in sometime in March 2017. Id. at
16-17. He contends that, after they moved in,
several problems with the mobile home became apparent,
including but not limited to the plumbing, the patio, the
carpeting, the vinyl, the trim and molding, and the walls.
Id. at 16-19.
Retailer Closing Agreement and Sales Agreement are silent
regarding arbitration. See ECF No. 5-2, 7-2.
However, included as part of the sales transaction with
Defendant CMH Homes, Inc., was a document labeled
“Binding Dispute Resolution Agreement”
(“the DRA”). ECF No. 5-6. The DRA includes an
arbitration provision which states, in relevant part:
The Parties agree to mandatory, binding arbitration
(“Arbitration”) of all Claims that are not
resolved in Mediation . . . . This Agreement applies to all
pre-existing, present, or future disputes, claims,
controversies, grievances, and causes of action against
Seller, including, but not limited to, common law claims,
contract and warranty claims, tort claims, statutory claims,
administrative law claims, and any other matter in question,
not otherwise excepted herein, arising out of or relating to
(i) the modular or manufactured home(s) purchased, sold,
owned, occupied, and/or delivered in any transaction with
Buyer or Beneficiaries . . ., (ii) the documents related to
the purchase and sale of the Home (including but not limited
to the Retailer Closing Agreement, any Purchase or Sales
Agreement, buyer's order, supplemental invoice, and other
instruments and agreement whereby Seller purports to convey
or receive any goods or services to or from Buyer or
Beneficiaries . . .), (iii) any products goods services,
insurance, supplemental warranty, service contract, and real
property . . . sold under or referred to in the Contract,
(iv) any events leading up to the Contract, (v) the
collection and servicing of the Contract, (vi) the design and
construction of the Home, and (vii) the interpretation,
scope, validity and enforceability of the Contract . . . .
ECF No. 5-6 at 2.
action was filed in the Williamsburg County Court of Common
Pleas and was removed to this Court on February 26, 2019. ECF
No. 1. Plaintiff brings claims for breach of contract,
negligent construction and repairs, breach of warranty, and
unfair trade practices. ECF No. 1-1 at 19-24.
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) establishes a
“strong federal public policy in favor of enforcing
arbitration agreements” and is designed to
“ensure judicial enforcement of privately made
agreements to arbitrate.” Dean Witter Reynolds,
Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 217, 219 (1985). The FAA was
enacted “in 1925 in order ‘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 on
the same footing as other contracts.'” Snowden
v. CheckPoint Check Cashing, 290 F.3d 631, 639 (4th Cir.
2002) (quoting Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane
Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 24 (1991)). “Underlying this
policy is Congress's view that arbitration constitutes a
more efficient dispute resolution process than
litigation.” Adkins v. Labor Ready, Inc., 303
F.3d 496, 500 (4th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).
provides that arbitration clauses in contracts involving
interstate commerce “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. Under the FAA, a district court must compel
arbitration and stay court proceedings if the parties have
agreed to arbitrate their dispute. Id. §§
2, 3. But, if the validity of the arbitration agreement is in
issue, a district court must first decide if the arbitration
clause is enforceable against the parties. Id.
§ 4. “‘[A]s a matter of federal law, any
doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be
resolved in favor of arbitration.'” Drews
Distrib., Inc. v. Silicon Gaming, Inc., 245 F.3d 347,
349 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l
Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25
(1983)). “A court should not deny a request to
arbitrate an issue ‘unless it may be said with positive
assurance that the arbitration clause is not susceptible of
an interpretation that covers the asserted
dispute.'” Id. at 349-50 (quoting
United Steelworkers of Am. v. Warrior & Gulf
Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582- 83 (1960)).
Nevertheless, “a party cannot be required to submit to
arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to
submit.” Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co.,
363 U.S. at 582.
seeking to compel arbitration must do so by establishing the
following four elements: (1) the existence of a dispute
between the parties; (2) a written agreement that includes an
arbitration provision purporting to cover the dispute; (3)
the relationship of the transaction, as evidenced by the
agreement, to interstate or foreign commerce; and (4) the
failure, neglect, or refusal of a party to arbitrate the
dispute. Am. Gen. Life & Accident Ins. Co. v.
Wood, 429 F.3d 83, 87 (4th Cir. 2005); see also
Whiteside v. Teltech Corp., 940 F.2d 99, 102 (4th Cir.
1991); Energy Absorption Sys. v. Carsonite
Int'l, 377 F.Supp.2d 501, 504 (D.S.C. 2005).
“[E]ven though arbitration has a favored place, there
still must be an underlying agreement between the parties to
arbitrate.” Adkins, 303 F.3d at 501 (internal
quotations and citation omitted). “Whether a party
agreed to arbitrate a particular dispute is a question of
state law governing contract formation.” Id.
(citing First Options of Chi., Inc. v. Kaplan, 514
U.S. 938, 944 (1995)). “[T]he party resisting
arbitration bears the burden of proving that the claims at
issue are ...