Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kabba v. Rent-A-Center

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

April 27, 2017

PAUL A. KABBA, Plaintiff,
v.
RENT-A-CENTER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         Defendant Rent-A-Center hired Plaintiff Paul A. Kabba on March 26, 1996. He worked for Defendant as a store manager until June 2, 2008, when he was violently assaulted and robbed at gunpoint. After the assault, he no longer could work, due to his injuries, and he took medical leave, following which Rent-A-Center “administratively terminated” his employment. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 12-17, ECF No. 1. Kabba sought re-employment with Rent-A-Center in 2012, but was not hired. In February 2013 he again applied and Rent-A-Center hired him as a lead assistant manager and directed him to report to work on March 1, 2013. Id. ¶ 17. But, when Kabba informed the store manager toward the end of his first day that “he had medical restrictions and limitations on heavy lifting” and provided the manager with his medical records, Rent-A-Center terminated his employment. Id. ¶¶ 18-20. Kabba filed this lawsuit against Rent-A-Center, alleging that “because of his disability due to serious injuries from armed robbers, race (African), color (black), national origin (Sierra Leone) he was discharged from his position as manager, rehired as a manager and then fired the same day, ” in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 - 12213; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; and state and local law. Compl. ¶ 1.

         Pending is Rent-A-Center's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative, to Stay Proceedings and Compel Arbitration, based on the arbitration agreements that the parties both signed in 2002, during Kabba's first period of employment, and in 2012, when he applied for another position but was not hired (“2002 Arbitration Agreement” and “2012 Arbitration Agreement”). ECF No. 9.[1] Kabba contends that the 2002 and 2012 Arbitration Agreements do not apply to his claims because Rent-A-Center presented him with, and he declined to sign, an arbitration agreement when he became a new hire in 2013. Kabba has clarified that his claims pertain only to his brief period of employment in 2013, Pl.'s Opp'n 1-2, despite the reference to his 2008 discharge in his Complaint, see Compl. ¶ 1. Because I find that, on the record before me and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Kabba, the earlier arbitration agreements do not establish that Kabba and Rent-A-Center intended to arbitrate the issue of whether Kabba's claims relating to his 2013 re-employment (without an arbitration agreement) are in fact arbitrable, I will deny Rent-A-Center's motion, treated as one for summary judgment, and order Rent-A-Center to respond to Kabba's Complaint.

         Standard of Review

         Rent-A-Center moves to dismiss or to stay and compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-15. Congress enacted the FAA “to promote the enforceability of arbitration agreements and to make arbitration a more viable option to parties weary of the ever-increasing ‘costliness and delays of litigation.'” Saturn Distrib. Corp. v. Williams, 905 F.2d 719, 722 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 220 (1985) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 96, 68th Cong., 1st Sess. 2 (1924) (quotation marks omitted))). It “reflects ‘a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements.'” Adkins v. Labor Ready, Inc., 303 F.3d 496, 500 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)). If an issue is “‘referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration, '” then a stay is mandatory and a motion to compel must be granted. Id. (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 3). “Notwithstanding the terms of § 3, however, dismissal is a proper remedy when all of the issues presented in a lawsuit are arbitrable.” Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. BSR Tropicana Resort, Inc., 252 F.3d 707, 709-10 (4th Cir. 2001).[2]

         When a party moves to compel arbitration, or to dismiss on the basis of a governing arbitration agreement, the Court first must “determine whether the parties agreed to arbitrate that dispute.” Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 626 (1985). The moving party must show

(1) the existence of a dispute between the parties, (2) a written agreement that includes an arbitration provision which purports to cover the dispute, (3) the relationship of the transaction, which is evidenced by the agreement, to interstate or foreign commerce, and (4) the failure, neglect or refusal of the [plaintiff] to arbitrate the dispute.

Adkins v. Labor Ready, Inc., 303 F.3d 496, 500-01 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Whiteside v. Teltech Corp., 940 F.2d 99, 102 (4th Cir. 1991)). While the Court applies the “federal substantive law of arbitrability, ” id. (quoting Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)), it applies “state law governing contract formation” to determine “[w]hether a party agreed to arbitrate a particular dispute, ” Adkins, 303 F.3d at 501.

         Rent-A-Center styles its motion as one to dismiss Kabba's Complaint but attaches to it the 2002 and 2012 Arbitration Agreements, as well as the Declaration of its Human Resources Director, Marc Tuckey, who provides additional information about Kabba's 2012 employment application. ECF No. 9-2, at 1-3. And, in response, Kabba attaches employment documents and his own Affidavit. On a motion to dismiss, the Court only may consider attached documents that are “integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint, ” and only when “the plaintiffs do not challenge [their] authenticity. Phillips v. LCI Int'l, Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999). While Kabba does not dispute the authenticity of the documents that Rent-A-Center filed (and clearly also does not dispute the authenticity of the documents he himself attaches), he does not rely on any of them in his Complaint and none is integral to it.

         Nonetheless, the Court may consider this broader array of documents by treating Rent-A-Center's motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, which it may do pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). See Syncrude Canada Ltd. v. Highland Consulting Grp., Inc., No. RDB-12-318, 2013 WL 139194, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 10, 2013). For the Court to convert the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment, both parties must have had “a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Notably, “the Federal Rules do not prescribe that any particular notice be given before a Rule 12 motion is converted to a Rule 56 motion.” Ridgell v. Astrue, DKC-10-3280, 2012 WL 707008, at *7 (D. Md. Mar. 2, 2012). Thus, this requirement “can be satisfied when a party is ‘aware that material outside the pleadings is before the court.'” Walker v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., No. CCB-12-3151, 2013 WL 2370442, at *3 (D. Md. May 30, 2013) (quoting Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985)). Indeed, while the Court “clearly has an obligation to notify parties regarding any court-instituted changes in the pending proceedings, [it] does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998).

         When a defendant attaches to its motion to dismiss materials that are not integral to the Complaint, as Rent-A-Center did here, the plaintiff should be “alert[] . . . to the possibility” that the Court may treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment. Ridgell, 2012 WL 707008, at *7; see Laughlin, 149 F.2d at 260-61. Likewise, when a plaintiff attaches non-integral materials to its opposition, as Kabba did here, this should alert the defendant that the Court may treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment. See Ridgell, 2012 WL 707008, at *7. Thus, the parties' attachments and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provided adequate notice that the Court could construe Rent-A-Center's motion as one for summary judgment. See Laughlin, 149 F.2d at 260-61; Ridgell, 2012 WL 707008, at *7. And, each party had “a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion, ” Kabba with his Opposition and Rent-A-Center with its Reply. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). I will treat Defendant's motion as a motion for summary judgment. See id.

         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986). The existence of only a “scintilla of evidence” is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986). Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact reasonably could find for the party opposing summary judgment. Id. The Court considers the undisputed facts, and to the extent there is a genuine dispute of material fact, “this Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Downing v. Balt. City Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs, No. RDB-12-1047, 2015 WL 1186430, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 13, 2015) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007)).

         Background

         During Kabba's initial period of employment, the parties entered into the 2002 Arbitration Agreement. 2002 Arb. Agr. 4 (signed Jan. 10, 2002), ECF No. 9-2, at 5-8; see Pl.'s Opp'n 1. Relevantly, it defined covered claims as follows:

         Claims Covered By The Agreement

The Company and I mutually consent to the resolution by arbitration of all claims or controversies (“claims”), past, present or future, whether or not arising out of my application for employment, assignment/employment, or the termination of my assignment/employment that the Company may have against me or that I may have against any of the following: (1) the Company, (2) its officers, directors, employees, or agents in their capacity as such or otherwise, (3) the Company's parent, subsidiary, and affiliated entities, (4) the benefit ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.