Tower Loan of Mississippi, LLC v. Chuck Willis

Case Type:
Case Status:
Reversed and Remanded
No. 18-60344 (5th Circuit, Dec 12,2019) Published
it is for the arbitrator—not (the court)—to decide whether Willis’s TILA claim is arbitrable. It is similarly the arbitrator’s province to resolve the inconsistent procedural terms. Remanded to the District Court to enforce the arbitration.
Procedural context:
In adversary bankruptcy proceedings, Chuck Willis sued Tower Loan of Mississippi, L.L.C. (“Tower Loan”), for allegedly violating the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”). Tower Loan moved to dismiss or compel arbitration. The bankruptcy court denied the motion, and the district court affirmed. Tower Loan appeals.
This appeal centers on the relationship between two arbitration agreements that Willis signed in November 2016 when he borrowed money from Tower Loan via an Installment Loan Agreement and Disclosure Statement (“loan agreement”). The loan agreement showed that Willis had also purchased insurance policies; those policies were issued by Tower Loan subsidiaries. In signing the loan agreement, Willis agreed to an arbitration agreement found on its back side (“first arbitration agreement”). And in purchasing the insurance policies, Willis agreed to a separate arbitration agreement (“sec- ond arbitration agreement”). Though Tower Loan didn’t sign the second agreement, a Tower Loan representative had handed it to Willis for his signature. The two arbitration agreements are similar but not identical. Start with the similarities. Both broadly require arbitration for all disputes between and among Willis, Tower Loan, and the insurance companies, including any that arise from the loan or the policies. Each agreement binds Willis to arbitrate any dispute with Tower Loan’s affiliates. Both delegate to the arbitrator the power to decide gateway arbitrability issues, including whether a given claim is covered. But the agreements conflict over several procedural aspects of the arbitration, relating mainly to the selection and number of arbitrators, time to respond, location, and fee-shifting. In January 2017, Willis filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. About four months later, he sued Tower Loan in an adversary proceeding, alleging that the company had violated the TILA, 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq., by providing inaccurate disclosures in the loan agreement. After answering, Tower Loan moved to dismiss or compel arbitration.
OWEN, Chief Judge, SMITH and DENNIS, Circuit Judges

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