Rivera v. American General Financial Services
As security for a loan from American General, a title lender, plaintiff Kim Rivera put up her car, her bicycle, her computer, and assorted camping equipment. She sued American General after it breached its contract with her, but the lender moved to compel arbitration.
On appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court, Public Justice argued that the arbitration clause was unenforceable both because it required arbitration before the National Arbitration Forum and because it was unconscionably one-sided under the New Mexico Supreme Court’s recent decision in Cordova v. World Finance Corp. With respect to the NAF issue, Public Justice argued that the arbitration clause’s specification of the NAF rendered the arbitration clause unenforceable because the disgraced NAF has ceased conducting consumer arbitrations in response to a law enforcement action. Also, because the choice of the NAF was a central element of American General’s arbitration clause, the court may not select another arbitration provider.
In July 2011, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ms. Rivera on both issues.
Public Justice’s Paul Bland was lead counsel on the appeal, with assistance from former Brayton-Thornton Attorney Melanie Hirsch. Co-counsel were Bruce E. Thompson of Martinez, Hart & Thompson, P.C., and Robert Treinen of the Treinen Law Office in Albuquerque.
- Leslie Bailey