Graham v. Rapid Auto Loans, LLC
ORDER: Defendant Rapid Auto Loans, LLC's Motion to Dismiss Complaint for Improper Venue or, Alternatively, Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. # 11) is GRANTED to the extent that the Court transfers this case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division. The Clerk is directed to transfer the case to that District and, thereafter, CLOSE this case. Signed by Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on 1/7/2021. (DMD)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Case No. 8:20-cv-2758-T-33AEP
RAPID AUTO LOANS, LLC,
This matter comes before the Court upon consideration of
Defendant Rapid Auto Loans, LLC’s Motion to Dismiss Complaint
for Improper Venue or, Alternatively, Motion to Transfer
Venue (Doc. # 11), filed on December 22, 2020. Plaintiff
Altrisha Graham responded on January 5, 2021. (Doc. # 14).
For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted as set
In 2017, Rapid Auto issued a loan to Graham to purchase
an automobile. (Doc. # 11-1 at 2; Doc. # 1 at 2). The loan
agreement contains a forum selection clause:
JURISDICTION AND VENUE. The Borrower(s) and Lender
acknowledge that a substantial portion of the
execution of this Agreement occurred or shall occur
in Broward County, Florida. Any civil action or
legal proceeding arising out of or relating to this
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Agreement shall be brought in the courts of record
of the State of Florida in Broward County or the
United States District Court, Southern District of
Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division. Both parties
consent to the jurisdiction of such court in any
civil action or legal proceeding and waive any
objection to the laying of venue of any such civil
action or legal proceeding in such court. Service
of any court paper may be affected on such party by
mail, as provided in this Agreement, or in such
other manner as may be provided under applicable
laws, rules of procedure or local rules.
(Doc. # 16-1 at 5)(emphasis added).
As a result of financial hardship, Graham fell behind on
her payments under the agreement. (Doc. # 1 at 2). “Several
months ago,” Rapid Auto began calling Graham’s cellphone and
sending her text messages in an attempt to collect the debt.
(Id. at 2-3). Although Graham demanded that Rapid Auto stop,
Rapid Auto has allegedly continued to call and text. (Id. at
Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and the Florida Consumer
Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”). (Doc. # 1). Now, Rapid
Auto moves to either dismiss or transfer the case based on
the forum selection clause. (Doc. # 11). Graham has responded
(Doc. # 14), and the Motion is ripe for review.
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“For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the
interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil
action to any other district or division where it might have
been brought or to any district or division to which all
parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Ordinarily,
following criteria must be met: (1) the action could have
been brought in the transferee district court; (2) a transfer
serves the interest of justice; and (3) a transfer is in the
convenience of the witnesses and parties.” i9 Sports Corp. v.
Cannova, No. 8:10-cv-803-T-33TGW, 2010 WL 4595666, at *3
(M.D. Fla. Nov. 3, 2010)(citation omitted).
‘represents the parties’ agreement as to the most proper
forum.’” Atl. Marine Const. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Ct. for W. Dist.
of Tex., 571 U.S. 49, 63 (2013)(citation omitted). “[A] valid
forum-selection clause [should be] given controlling weight
omitted). So, the Court “should not consider arguments about
the parties’ private interests.” Id. at 64. “When parties
agree to a forum-selection clause, they waive the right to
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convenient for themselves or their witnesses, or for their
pursuit of the litigation.” Id. “A court accordingly must
deem the private-interest factors to weigh entirely in favor
of the preselected forum.” Id. “A district court may only
Loeffelholz v. Ascension Health, Inc., 34 F. Supp. 3d 1187,
1190 (M.D. Fla. 2014).
As a preliminary matter, Graham argues in her response
that the Motion should be denied because Rapid Auto failed to
attach a copy of the agreement to its Motion. (Doc. # 14 at
4). However, since her response, Rapid Auto has corrected
this oversight and a copy of the agreement is filed on the
docket. (Doc. # 16-1). Thus, this argument does not warrant
denial of the Motion and the Court will evaluate the merits
of the Motion.
“Forum-selection clauses are presumptively valid and
enforceable unless the plaintiff makes a ‘strong showing’
that enforcement would be unfair or unreasonable under the
circumstances.” Krenkel v. Kerzner Int’l Hotels Ltd., 579
F.3d 1279, 1281 (11th Cir. 2009). Graham does not challenge
the validity of the agreement’s forum selection clause, and
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thus the Court concludes that the clause is valid. Instead,
Graham argues that her TCPA and FCCPA claims in this case do
not fall within the scope of the forum selection clause. (Doc.
# 14 at 4).
“Beyond validity, in analyzing the application of a
forum-selection clause a court must determine whether the
claim or relationship at issue falls within the scope of the
clause — by looking to the language of the clause itself —
and whether the clause is mandatory or permissive.” Blue Ocean
Corals, LLC v. Phx. Kiosk, Inc., No. 14-CIV-61550, 2014 WL
4681006, at *4 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 19, 2014); see also Bah. Sales
Assoc., LLC v. Byers, 701 F.3d 1335, 1340 (11th Cir. 2012)(“To
determine if a claim falls within the scope of a clause, we
look to the language of the clause.”).
Here, the forum selection clause is mandatory. See Glob.
Satellite Commc’n Co. v. Starmill U.K. Ltd., 378 F.3d 1269,
jurisdiction in a designated forum but does not prohibit
contract.’” (citation omitted)).
And the forum selection
clause applies to “[a]ny civil action or legal proceeding
arising out of or relating to this Agreement” — that is, the
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loan agreement between Graham and Rapid Auto. (Doc. # 16-1 at
regarding scope. While the claims at issue are brought under
the TCPA and FCCPA rather than under the agreement, these
acknowledges that the allegedly illegal phone calls and text
messages were made in an effort to collect on the debt Graham
owed Rapid Auto under the agreement. Rapid Auto would not
created by the loan agreement and Graham’s alleged failure to
Progressive Leasing d/b/a Prog Leasing LLC, No. 15-CV-2812
2016)(“Plaintiff alleges that defendant’s automated phone
‘account with [the] Defendant.’ The only ‘account’ either
party addresses is the Lease between plaintiff and defendant,
and plaintiff does not dispute that defendant’s allegedly
defendant’s alleged phone calls ‘relate to’ the Lease because
plaintiff’s alleged damages would not have been suffered had
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plaintiff’s TCPA claim is within the scope of the Arbitration
Provision.” (citations omitted)).
claims relate to the
agreement. See Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 810 F.2d
1066, 1070 (11th Cir. 1987)(“The contract refers to any ‘case
or controversy arising under or in connection with this
evidenced by the contract.”), aff’d and remanded, 487 U.S. 22
(1988). Thus, the forum selection clause applies to these
claims. And Graham makes no argument that the public interest
factors weigh against enforcing the forum selection clause.
Therefore, the forum selection clause will be enforced.
rather than dismissal of this case, is the proper remedy. See
petitioner’s argument that [a forum-selection] clause may be
enforced by a motion to dismiss under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) or
Instead, a forum-selection clause may be enforced by a motion
selection clause specifies that venue may properly lie in the
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Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, the
Court transfers the case there.
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
Defendant Rapid Auto Loans, LLC’s Motion to Dismiss
Complaint for Improper Venue or, Alternatively, Motion to
Transfer Venue (Doc. # 11) is GRANTED to the extent that the
Court transfers this case to the United States District Court
Division. The Clerk is directed to transfer the case to that
District and, thereafter, CLOSE this case.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers in Tampa, Florida, this 7th
day of January, 2020.
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