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Najera v. David Stanley Chevrolet, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Division IV

October 25, 2017

JORGE ANTONIO CARDENAS NAJERA, Plaintiff/Appellee,
v.
DAVID STANLEY CHEVROLET, INC., Defendant/Appellant.

          Mandate Issued: 11/21/2017

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE PATRICIA G. PARRISH, TRIAL JUDGE

          R. Scott Adams, Robert W. Gray, ADAMS & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellee.

          Bart Jay Robey, CHUBBUCK DUNCAN & ROBEY, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Defendant/Appellant.

          DEBORAH B. BARNES, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         ¶1 David Stanley Chevrolet, Inc. (DSC) appeals from the trial court's Order denying its motion to compel arbitration. Based on our review, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In 2014, Jorge Antonio Cardenas Najera purchased three Chevrolet trucks from DSC, the first on January 13, the second on February 3, and the third on October 1. In July 2015, DSC repossessed the three trucks on the purported basis that Najera provided an incorrect Social Security Number. However, in Najera's petition he alleges that because he is in the process of establishing citizenship he provided "his individual taxpayer identification number" on the appropriate documents, received title to the vehicles, and timely made every installment payment. He alleges, among other things, that "[DSC] or its assign(s)... wrongfully affixed the false Social Security Number to the forms[.]" Various theories are set forth in his petition against DSC, including breach of contract, conversion, and fraud.

         ¶3 DSC filed a motion to compel arbitration, pointing out that, "in the course of purchasing" each vehicle, "[Najera] signed and agreed to several documents, " including a Purchase Agreement "contain[ing] a Dispute Resolution Clause requiring [Najera] and [DSC] to submit disputes... to binding arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act." DSC attached copies of the Purchase Agreements to its motion. The parties signed these agreements on the dates of the three sales, respectively. The dispute resolution clause is in red ink on the first page of each Purchase Agreement, is specifically signed by Najera and DSC, and provides, in part, as follows:

This Dispute Resolution Clause applies to any controversy, claim or dispute between the Purchaser and the Dealer arising out of, or related to this sale or transaction, including, but not limited to any and all issues or disputes arising as a result of this sale or transaction, whether said issues arise prior to, during or subsequent to the sale or attempted sale of a vehicle and whether said sale or attempted sale is a cash sale or is based upon financing or extended credit, or arises as a result of any financing contract, agreement or sales document related to the sale or attempted sale of a vehicle. The Purchaser and Dealer agree that all matters addressed within this Clause shall be submitted to binding arbitration, with an Arbitration Service or Arbitrator of the parties' choosing, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, Title 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq.

         ¶4 However, in Najera's response to the motion to compel, he asserts that "there was no assent by [Najera] to an arbitration clause, " that his signature was fraudulently induced, that the arbitration agreement is unconscionable, and that there was no "meeting of the minds" as to arbitration.

         ¶5 In addition, in Najera's supplemental response, he asserts he executed a Retail Installment Sale Contract (RISC) at the time he purchased each vehicle. He asserts that the RISCs, which do not contain an arbitration clause, constitute the complete contract of the parties for each transaction because the RISCs each contain the following clause, which Najera refers to as a "merger clause":

HOW THIS CONTRACT CAN BE CHANGED. This contract contains the entire agreement between you and us relating to this contract. Any change to this contract must be in writing and we must sign it. No oral changes are binding.

         Najera further relies on the following language also contained in the RISCs:

You, the Buyer... may buy the vehicle below for cash or on credit. By signing this contract, you choose to buy the vehicle on credit under the agreements on the front and back of this contract. You agree to pay the Seller... the Amount Financed and Finance Charge in U.S. funds according to the payment schedule below.

         ¶6 Najera specifically focuses on the following language from the above-quoted clauses of the RISCs: "This contract contains the entire agreement" between the parties and, "[b]y signing this contract, you choose to buy the vehicle on credit under the agreements on the front and back of this contract." Based on this language in the RISCs, Najera asserts "[t]he clear and unambiguous language of the RISC establishes the intent of the parties to purchase and sell [each] vehicle ...


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