MIAMI — The 3rd District Court of
reversed a trial court’s denial of an arbitration case involving a car
dealership that sold vehicles to buyers who did not speak English.
Imports LLC in Miami sold vehicles to Dayron Ortega, Erislandis
Marquez and Dianellys Dias. When they purchased their automobiles, they
each signed a purchase order and a sales contract, which were written
Both documents contained arbitration clauses, but they were not identical, according to court records. As a result, the buyers filed a class-action lawsuit, seeking damages and alleging violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The buyers also claimed the Florida Motor Vehicle Retail Sales
Finance Act was violated. They said the blank spaces in the purchase documents
were allegedly filled in after the buyers’ execution, adding extra fees and
products without their consent.
court, the dealership moved to commence arbitration, and after a hearing, the
district court denied the motion, saying the sales staff never explained the
arbitration clause to the buyers or made any attempt to provide a translator.
The dealership appealed the court’s decision.
The appeals panel ruled that the trial court erred, saying there was
no agreement to arbitrate.
"We find that, as a matter of law, each of the trial court’s alternative
findings for denying Kendall’s motion to compel arbitration are flawed," the appeals court wrote in its opinion. "Because
the Buyers did not attempt to learn what the documents they were signing said
or meant by reading them, requesting that they be read or explained to them, or
ask any 32 question to educate themselves as to the terms; there is no evidence
that the Buyers were rushed, pressured, or coerced into signing the documents."
The judge’s opinion said the provisions in the purchase order and financing
agreement did not irreconcilably conflict.
"The trial court erred by
finding that there was no valid agreement to arbitrate," the opinion said. "We
also reject the trial court’s finding of procedural unconscionability.
Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s order denying Kendall’s motion to
compel arbitration and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion."
The court also weighed in on the relevance of the buyers' inability to speak
"The trial court found that
there was no agreement to arbitrate because the Buyers could not effectively
communicate in English, and there was no evidence that anyone attempted to
explain the documents, and specifically, the conflicting arbitration provisions
to the plaintiffs," the opinion said.