ST. LOUIS (Legal Newsline) – Rent-A-Center is asking a federal judge to send a class action lawsuit against it to arbitration.
The class action lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of St. Louis against Rent-A-Center alleging that it received default judgments based on returns of service signed by special process servers who were not appointed by the court to serve process.
A jury trial has been scheduled for June 25 before Judge Michael Kellan Mullen. After removing the case to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division, Rent-A-Center filed a motion to compel arbitration.
Rent-A-Center previously filed a lawsuit against Myra Williams, the lead plaintiff in the class action, alleging that she breached lease agreements for furniture and electronics. A second person, Sade Beaton, has been named as a plaintiff in the class action suit.
On June 14, a default judgment was entered for Rent-A-Center in the initial action against Williams for $420.48 plus court costs and interest accruing at the statutory rate, the petition states. However, the judgment was voided because the special process server that supposedly served Williams with the summons and petition in the Williams action was not appointed to serve process.
Williams alleged she incurred legal fees in the action to have the judgment set aside.
As a result, Williams filed a lawsuit that seeking certification as a class action suit, on behalf of individuals who were sued by Rent-A-Center from Dec. 6, 2012, "until the data of class certification served by a person who wasn’t appointed by the court as a special process server and subsequently had a default judgment entered against them."
The class excludes anyone who, prior to entry of a default judgment, "were served by a sheriff, served by a person appointed by the court to serve process, appeared personally in court or had counsel appear on their behalf."
The complaint cites alleged violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
As in the action filed against Williams, the petition states Rent-A-Center filed lawsuits against the putative class members for their alleged breach of their lease agreements with the rental business.
Further, the class action claim states that Rent-A-Center took default judgments based on returns of service signed by special process servers who were not appointed by the court to serve process, “thereby making appropriate final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief appropriate for Williams, Beaton and the putative class members.”
According to the complaint, more than 200 people make up the putative class, meaning joinder of all of the putative class members is improbable.
Rent-A-Center filed a memorandum Jan. 12 in support of its motion to compel arbitration and stay litigation.
In that filing, Rent-A-Center maintains that Williams, Beaton and others signed written agreements that contain valid arbitration provisions, in which the parties agree to arbitrate “any dispute between us,” as well as any claims “that are based on any legal theory whatsoever.”
The company also maintains that the arbitration agreements include a provision which would require any challenges to be settled by an arbitrator.
Citing Rent-A-Center West Inc. v. Jackson, Rent-A-Center claims the agreements have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ claims in this case are covered by the arbitration agreements and should be compelled to arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act,” the memorandum stated.
The filing requested the court to grant the motion and compel the plaintiffs to arbitrate claims against Rent-A-Center. It also asked the court to stay the circuit court case pending arbitration.
Berkowitz Oliver LLP of Kansas City, Missouri is representing Rent-A-Center. Williams is represented by Butsch Roberts & Associates LLC in Clayton, Missouri.