JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) – The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that the rental agreement between Rent-A-Center and Brian Ray Pedigo did not compel arbitration, despite the fact that Pedigo had pawned the television he rented from them and then been jailed for it.

The case of Brian Ray Pedigo v. Rent-A-Center Inc., was appealed from the Prentiss County Circuit Court, which ruled in favor of Rent-A-Center [RAC]. On Oct. 26, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an opinion and found that “Such a ruling [to compel arbitration] was in error. Though broad, the arbitration agreement did not contemplate Pedigo having to arbitrate his claim that Rent-A-Center maliciously swore out a criminal affidavit, causing his wrongful incarceration."

According to the decision, in 2012, Pedigo signed a rental purchase agreement (RPA) for a television at the Rent-A-Center in Booneville, Mississippi. He agreed to make payments for 23 months, and then he would own the television.

“By February 2013, Pedigo had failed to fulfill his payment obligations under the RPA and was more than 20 days past-due under the agreement. Finding the contract had been breached, RAC manager Kristopher Robinson sought to recover the television from Pedigo. Through his attempts at recovery, Robinson discovered that the television was pawned shortly after it was leased. RAC contacted the pawn shop, and its owner confirmed that the television was pawned at his store in November 2012, for $100,” the ruling states.

In April 2013, Robinson filed criminal charges against Pedigo because Pedigo still owed $1,300 on the television under the RPA. Pedigo was arrested and incarcerated in December 2013, the ruling states. 

Pedigo was released in June of 2014 after the felony charge was retired. Pedigo then filed suit against RAC alleging malicious prosecution.

RAC sought to compel arbitration, based on a clause in the rental purchase agreement. Pedigo appealed. 

In reversing and remanding, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded, “Pedigo's suit is based on RAC's allegedly malicious swearing out of a criminal complaint—an action not contemplated by the CAA [Consumer Arbitration Agreement]. As a result, RAC has not shown that the parties agreed to arbitrate this dispute... For that reason, we reverse the circuit court's decision to stay proceedings for arbitration and remand the matter for proceedings consistent with this opinion.” 

The opinion was issued by Justice Dawn Beam, with justices William Waller, Michael Randolph, James Kitchens, Leslie King, Josiah Coleman, James Maxwell, Robert Chamberlin and David Ishee, concurring.

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