Betts v. Fastfunding
This case was brought in Orange County, Fla., against a payday lender that had been charging interest rates on its loans that far exceeded the usury limits in Florida. The plaintiff was sent to arbitration with instructions from the appeals court that the arbitrator must consider whether, under Florida law, the case should proceed.
The arbitrator in this case, however, was the National Arbitration Forum (NAF), which dismissed the class action under its own rules, which effectively, but not openly, banned all class actions. The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion in the trial court to appoint a new arbitrator capable of following the Court of Appeal’s instruction. The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion.
Shortly thereafter, evidence of corruption and misdealing forced the NAF to shut its doors to consumer arbitration. The Florida Court of opinion issued an opinion ordering the trial court to evaluate the appointment of an alternative arbitral forum. The case was sent to arbitration before the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) with instructions that the arbitrator must once again consider whether the case should proceed as a class action. The AAA arbitrator interpreted the contract to provide for class proceedings and issued a clause construction award permitting the case to go forward in class arbitration. The payday lender appealed this decision by filing in the trial court a motion to vacate the arbitrator’s clause construction award, and Public Justice opposed the motion, arguing that the arbitrator was merely interpreting the parties’ contract in keeping with recent U.S. Supreme Court FAA Jurisprudence.