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Grant-Fletcher v. Collecto, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 9, 2014

LUCIENA S. GRANT-FLETCHER, Plaintiff,
v.
COLLECTO, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

The Plaintiff Luciena S. Grant-Fletcher, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, sued the Defendant Collecto, Inc., doing business as EOS CCA, for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, at seq., and the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, Md. Code, Com. Law § 14-201, et seq. Pending before this Court is the Defendant's Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Further Proceedings (ECF No. 15). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, the Defendant's Motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Grant-Fletcher entered a contract for cellular telephone service with Cingular Wireless in 2004. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2; Pl.'s Opp. 7, ECF No. 18. In or about 2007, Cingular became AT&T Wireless. Grant-Fletcher entered a further contract with AT&T on February 1, 2009. See Wireless Service Agreement, ECF No. 15-3. The Plaintiff does not deny entering the 2009 contract with AT&T. The Plaintiff argues, however, that the signature on the confirmation page, bearing her telephone number "XXXXXXXXXX" and attached to the Defendant's Motion, is not hers. Affidavit of Luciena Grant-Fletcher, ECF No. 18-1; Wireless Service Contract, ECF No. 15-3. She states that she does not recall whether she signed the electronic signature pad or even visited an AT&T store in 2009, but that she "may have" electronically signed in the store with her daughter who was a minor and had a cellular phone on the same account at the time. Pl.'s Aff., ECF No. 18-1.

The contract specifically references "AT&T's current Terms of Service #FMSTCT02090123E including its binding arbitration clause, " contains an acknowledgement that the Terms of Service were provided separately to the Plaintiff before the contract was signed, and contains an express agreement to be bound by those "separate Terms of Service." ECF No. 15-3. The Terms of Service include a section entitled "DISPUTE RESOLUTION BY BINDING ARBITRATION." The document instructs the customer to "Please read carefully. It affects your rights" and, in a plain language summary, provides in pertinent part:

In the unlikely event that AT&T's customer service department is unable to resolve a complaint you may have to your satisfaction (or if AT&T has not been able to resolve a dispute it has with you after attempting to do so informally), we each agree to resolve those disputes through binding arbitration or small claims court instead of courts of general jurisdiction. Arbitration is more informal than a lawsuit in court. Arbitration uses a neutral arbitrator instead of a judge or jury, allows for more limited discovery than in court, and is subject to very limited review by courts. Arbitrators can award the same damages and relief that a court can award. Any arbitration under this Agreement will take place on an individual basis; class arbitrations and class actions are not permitted. For any non-frivolous claim that does not exceed $75, 000, AT&T will pay all costs of the arbitration. Moreover, in arbitration you are entitled to recover attorneys' fees from AT&T to at least the same extent as you would be in court.

Terms of Service, ECF No. 15-4. The arbitration clause itself states in pertinent part:

(1) AT&T and you agree to arbitrate all disputes and claims between us. This agreement to arbitrate is intended to be broadly interpreted. It includes, but is not limited to:
• claims arising out of or relating to any aspect of the relationship between us, whether based in contract, tort, statute, fraud, misrepresentation or any other legal theory;
• claims that arose before this or any prior Agreement (including, but not limited to, claims relating to advertising);
• claims that are currently the subject of purported class action litigation in which you are not a member of a certified class; and
• claims that may arise after the termination of this Agreement.
References to "AT&T, " "you, " and "us" include our respective subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, employees, predecessors in interest, successors, and assigns, as well as all authorized or unauthorized users or beneficiaries of services or Devices under this or prior Agreements between us.... You agree that, by entering into this Agreement, you and AT&T are each waiving the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action. This Agreement evidences a transaction in interstate commerce, and thus the Federal Arbitration Act governs the interpretation and enforcement of this provision. This arbitration provision shall survive the termination of this Agreement.
* * *
ECF No. 15-4 (all emphasis in original). The above provisions, collectively, comprise the "Arbitration Agreement" at issue in this case. The Plaintiff states that she was not given a hard copy of the Arbitration ...

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