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Usie v. Sunshine Homes, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 24, 2017

DORIS H. USIE
v.
SUNSHINE HOMES, INC., ET AL.

         ON APPLICATION FOR SUPERVISORY WRITS FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. MARTIN, NO. 82841-G HONORABLE CURTIS SIGUR, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Jacques P. Soileau, Soileau & Soileau COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPLICANT: Doris H. Usie

          Gina Bradley Turtle, Guglielmo, Lopez, Turtle, Hunter & Jarrell, L.L.P. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/RESPONDENT: Royer Mobile Homes of Opelousas, Inc.

          Lamont P. Domingue Voorhies & Labbe COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/RESPONDENT: Sunshine Homes, Inc.

          Court composed of John E. Conery, D. Kent Savoie, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          VAN H. KYZAR JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Doris H. Usie, filed this application for supervisory writs seeking to have the trial court judgment sustaining the exceptions of prematurity in favor of the defendants, Royer Mobile Homes of Opelousas, Inc. and Sunshine Homes, Inc. set aside. For the following reasons, we grant the writ application and make it peremptory by reversing the trial court judgment and remanding the matter for further proceedings.

         DISCUSSION OF THE RECORD

         On March 27, 2007, Usie went to Royer Mobile Homes of Opelousas, Inc. (Royer) to find a new manufactured home (hereinafter sometimes referred to as "home") to take the place of her present home. After choosing a home, she paid a non-refundable deposit of $500.00 by check so Royer would hold the home until she could arrange financing through a third-party lender. On April 10, 2007, Usie executed a purchase agreement with Royer, which identified both the home and the home's purchase price of $39, 500.00, and which was signed by both Usie and Alan Amy, Royer's president. However, since Usie's financing arrangements were not yet finalized, Royer agreed that it would continue to hold the home, as well as Usie's $500.00 check.

         On April 19, 2007, First Louisiana National Bank, on behalf of Usie, issued a check payable to Royer in the amount of $33, 500.00, for the bulk of the home's purchase price. The remaining balance of the purchase price, $6, 000.00, was obtained from the trade-in value of Usie's former home. On May 5, 2007, Usie returned to Royer to sign additional documents, one of which was entitled "ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND AGREEMENT (HUD CODE HOME), " which contained the subject arbitration agreement, as follows:

10. ARBITRATION. All parties acknowledge and agree that this agreement and the performance of the transactions contemplated hereby evidence transactions which involve a substantial nexus with interstate commerce. Accordingly, any dispute, controversy or claim of any kind or nature which has arisen or may arise between the parties, their successors, assigns, heirs, representatives, parent companies, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, employees, agents, and contractors (including any dispute, controversy or claim relating to the validity of this arbitration clause), whether arising out of past, present or future dealings between the parties, their successors, assigns, heirs, representatives, parent companies, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, employees, agents and contractors shall be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act and shall be settled by arbitration before a single arbitrator in accordance with Consumer arbitration rules or the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association, and judgment upon the award rendered by the arbitrator may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof. Such arbitration proceeding shall be held in such location as shall be designated by MANUFACTURER. The arbitrator shall be appointed by the American Arbitration Association, and judgment upon the award rendered by the arbitrator may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof. Such arbitration proceeding shall be held in such location as shall be designated by MANUFACTURER. The arbitrator shall be appointed by the American Arbitration Association from a list of approved arbitrators except that nothing in the agreement shall prevent the parties from mutually agreeing on a single arbitrator of their own choosing .[sic] The cost of arbitration shall be apportioned equally between the parties. Purchaser agrees that prior to any arbitration, manufacturer and its agents, investigators, representative, attorneys etc. will be allowed to inspect the home as often as is reasonably necessary to prepare for the arbitration. Without limiting the generality of foregoing, it is the intention of the parties to resolve by binding arbitration, as provided herein, all past, present, and future disputes, whether in tort, contract or otherwise, concerning or related to (i) the Manufactured Home, its sale, warranty, setup, repair, installation, manufacture, financing, insurance, its representatives, parent companies, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, employees, agents, and contractors. The parties understand and agree that the arbitrator shall have all powers provided by law, and may award any legal or equitable relief, including, without limitation, money damages, declaratory relief and injunctive relief. EACH OF THE PARTIES HERETO WAIVES ANY RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL WITH RESPECT TO ANY CONTROVERSY BETWEEN THE PARTIES, THEIR SUCCESSORS, ASSIGNS, HEIRS, REPRESENTATIVES, PARENT COMPANIES, DIVISIONS, SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS AND CONTRACTORS.

         No representative of Sunshine, the manufacturer, was present when the parties executed this document on May 5, 2007, although the signature of Sunshine's service manager, Hugh M. Ballard, was added at a later, unspecified time.

         Usie alleged that she began experiencing health problems in October 2013, and that she discovered leaks in her roof in 2014. Upon further investigation, she determined that there was roof damage, rotting wood, and mold in her home. After paying for extensive home repairs, Usie filed the instant suit against Royer, the seller, and Sunshine.

         In response to the lawsuit, Royer and Sunshine each filed exceptions of prematurity, arguing that this suit should be dismissed or stayed and that Usie should be required to arbitrate her claims pursuant to the arbitration clause contained in the "Acknowledgment and Agreement" document signed by her. Following a hearing, the trial court sustained the exceptions and stayed the matter pending resolution of the claims ...


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