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Richards v. Par, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 16, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 36) filed by Defendants PAR, Inc. (“PAR”) and Lawrence Towing, LLC (“Lawrence Towing”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff Nichole L. Richards (“Richards”) filed a Complaint with claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), as well as state law claims. (Filing No. 1.) Richards alleges that Defendants are debt collectors under 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6), and their repossession of her vehicle was in violation of Indiana Code § 26-1-9.1-609. Thus, she argues the Defendants violated the FDCPA. Richards' state law claims arise out of the alleged wrongful repossession. Also pending before the Court is a Motion to Stay Arbitration filed by the Defendants (Filing No. 43), and a Motion to Intervene, filed by Huntington Bancshares, Inc. (“Huntington”) (Filing No. 47). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and denies the Motions to Stay Arbitration and to Intervene.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to Richards as the non- moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). On February 26, 2015, Richards purchased a used 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe (the “Tahoe”) from Tru Worth Auto for $26, 750.00. (Filing No. 1 at 1.) Huntington National Bank financed the purchase and obtained a lien on the vehicle. (Filing No. 44-1 at 2.) Richards missed payments on the Tahoe and defaulted under the terms of the Personal Loan Agreement (“Agreement”) with Huntington. Id. The Agreement provided that Huntington had the right to repossess the Tahoe in the event that Richards defaulted on her payments. Id.

         Huntington contracted with PAR to repossess the Tahoe, and PAR subcontracted the job to Lawrence Towing. (Filing No. 1 at 2.) On December 6, 2016, Lawrence Towing went to Richards' home located in Indianapolis, Indiana to repossess the Tahoe. (Filing No. 38-1 at 6.) Because the Tahoe had a trailer attached to it and was not readily accessible, Lawrence Towing had to make contact with Richards to accomplish the repossession. Id. at 3. Richards refused to give Lawrence Towing her vehicle. (Filing No. 38-1 at 8.) The following exchange occurred between Richards and the Lawrence Towing employee:

And he said, well, we can either do this the hard way or we can do this the easy way. And I said what's the hard way? He said the hard way is I call the police and they make you give me the vehicle. And I said, well, I guess we're going to have to do this the hard way because I'm not giving you my vehicle. I'm going to have to ask you to leave my property. He said that's fine and so him and the younger gentleman walked off my property and they got in their vehicle and they moved up into the front of my driveway and turned off the engine, got out and he got on his cell phone and he was -- presumably the police, but he was talking to somebody.

         (Filing No. 38-1 at 8-9). Ultimately, the police arrived and Richards continued to verbally refuse the repossession. Id. at 10. When the Lawrence Towing employee went to unhook the trailer attached to the Tahoe, Richards stepped off of her porch and was put in handcuffs by the officer. Id. at 11. Richards was not taken into custody, however, the Tahoe was towed away and repossessed. (Filing No. 1 at 3.) On February 9, 2017, Richards filed this action against the Defendants in federal court. (Filing No. 1.) Her claims for relief are violation of the FDCPA, Replevin, and violation of the Indiana Crime Victims Relief Act (in particular Indiana Code § 35-43-2-2 and § 35-43-4-3, Criminal Trespass). Id. at 3-5. Richards intentionally did not include Huntington in this lawsuit because Huntington's contract contained a binding Arbitration Provision that would have allowed Huntington to require Richards' claims to be arbitrated. (Filing No. 52-1 at 1.)

         On April 16, 2018, Richards filed an Amended Claim for Arbitration against Huntington with JAMS (formerly known as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc.) premised on factual averments identical to those asserted in this action. (Filing No. 44-3.) An arbitration was convened on May 31, 2018, during which Huntington objected to Richards' efforts to adjudicate this matter in two different forums. (Filing No. 47 at 3.) Ultimately, JAMS cancelled the arbitration following Huntington's assertion that JAMS was ineligible to administer the arbitration as its policies and procedures were materially inconsistent with Huntington's arbitration provision. Id. Thereafter, on June 7, 2018, Huntington filed a Motion to Intervene in the instant action, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) and 24(b) (Filing No. 47).


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         The purpose of summary judgment is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.Com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted). “In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of a claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation and internal quotations omitted). Finally, “neither the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and internal quotations omitted).

         B. Motion to Intervene Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 governs a party's ability to intervene in a cause of action. Rule 24(a)(2) states that a party may intervene as a matter of right when he “claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.” Rule 24(b)(2) states that a party may be allowed to intervene if he “has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact.”

         A party seeking to intervene as a matter of right under Rule 24(a)(2) must show: (1) timeliness of the application, (2) an interest relating to the subject matter of the main action, (3) potential impairment of that interest if the action is resolved without him, and (4) that the interest cannot be adequately protected by the existing parties. See Reid L. v. Ill. State Bd. of Educ., 289 F.3d 1009, 1017 (7th Cir. 2002); Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Heritage Capital Advisory Servs., Ltd., 736 F.2d 384, 386 (7th Cir. 1984). If the applicant does not carry his burden of satisfying each of these requirements, Keith v. Daley, 764 F.2d 1265, 1268 (7th Cir. 1985), the ...

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