United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
MURGUIA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court upon plaintiff's Motion to
Remove Case from Arbitration and Proceed with a Case
Management Order or in the Alternative, Motion to Compel a
New Arbitration Proceeding. (Doc. 16). Plaintiff Eric David
Keller filed this case claiming defendant T-Mobile failed to
timely investigate and resolve a fraud claim on
plaintiff's account. The case proceeded to arbitration,
with an award for defendant. Plaintiff seeks to remove the
case from arbitration or, alternatively to compel a new
arbitration, due to bias of the arbitrator and unfairness in
the hearing. The court denies plaintiff's motion for the
reasons discussed below.
January 12, 2016, plaintiff filed a petition against
defendant in Douglas County District Court. Plaintiff is a
Kansas citizen and defendant is a corporation of Delaware and
Washington. Plaintiff claims that defendant allowed someone
other than plaintiff to open an account in plaintiff's
name and then failed to resolve the fraud report or
investigate in a timely matter. Defendant removed the case to
federal court and moved to enforce the contract's
arbitration clause. Plaintiff subsequently agreed to
arbitration. At plaintiff's request, the American
Arbitration Association (“AAA”) assigned an
arbitrator and the case proceeded to arbitration.
appointed Bradley Haddock to serve as arbitrator for the
case. Arbitrator Haddock received the filings of the claims
in the case. Arbitrator Haddock then proceeded to a
scheduling conference, which both parties attended
telephonically. At the conference, the parties set a deadline
of July 12, 2017, for exchange of exhibits and other
evidence. On July 12, 2017, defendant provided exhibits and
all other evidence being used at the arbitration. Plaintiff
did not provide any exhibits or other evidence by the
the arbitration proceedings, plaintiff challenged Arbitrator
Haddock's impartiality twice. Both times, the accusations
were deemed baseless. Plaintiff first requested a new
arbitrator from AAA because he believed Arbitrator Haddock
was biased. On May 3, 2017, AAA denied plaintiff's
request. Then, on June 13, 2017, Arbitrator Haddock denied
plaintiff's direct request to excuse himself as
arbitrator. Plaintiff claimed Arbitrator Haddock's
history of representing large, capitalist businesses would
bias Arbitrator Haddock against a small plaintiff like him.
He did not provide evidence of this bias besides Arbitrator
Haddock's clientele history. Additionally, plaintiff
claims in the present motion-but not in the previous two
challenges-that one of plaintiff's family members struck
Arbitrator Haddock's car in a drunk driving incident and,
therefore, Arbitrator Haddock cannot remain unbiased. But
plaintiff provides no evidence for this claim in this motion.
and defendant proceeded to arbitration before Arbitrator
Haddock. The arbitrator held an evidentiary hearing on August
2, 2017. Plaintiff could not attend due to “unforeseen
circumstances” at the prison where plaintiff is housed.
The circumstances involved another inmate. The following day,
plaintiff informed Arbitrator Haddock and defendant that he
could not attend the hearing and requested a new hearing.
Despite this, Arbitrator Haddock entered an award in favor of
defendant. Plaintiff now asks this court for relief on
grounds of arbitrator bias and unfairness in the hearing.
Pro Se Standard
plaintiff proceeds pro se, the court construes his filings
liberally and holds them to less stringent standards than
pleadings filed by lawyers. Barnett v. Corr. Corp of
Am., 441 F. App'x 600, 601 (10th Cir. 2011). Pro se
plaintiffs are nevertheless required to follow the federal
and local rules of practice and the court does not assume the
role of advocating for plaintiff. United States v.
Porath, 553 F. App'x 802, 803 (10th Cir. 2014).
Defendant's motion to remove the case from arbitration is
in both the disputed contract and by stipulation to the
court, agreed to arbitration. Plaintiff now argues that
arbitration should have never occurred. However, plaintiff
stipulated to arbitration in a document filed with the court,
and no reason exists to set aside this stipulation. Once
parties enter into agreement to arbitrate, the entire
contract is submitted to arbitration to render a decision.
Ormsbee Dev. Co. v. Grace, 668 F.2d 1140, 1146 (10th
Cir. 1982). Therefore, this court will not displace the
agreement to arbitrate.
Defendant's motion to compel a new arbitration proceeding
is denied as no grounds under the Federal Arbitration Act
exist for vacating the arbitration order.
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) applies to this
arbitration, even if the contract is fraudulent. The FAA
applies for two reasons. First, the disputed contract terms
specify the contract affects interstate commerce and,
therefore, the FAA applies. However, even if this term was
not present, the FAA would still apply. The FAA applies if
arbitration agreements involve interstate commerce. 9 U.S.C.A
§ 2; Volt Info. Servs., Inc. v. Bd. of Trs. of
Leland Stanford Junior Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 475 (1989).
Plaintiff is a Kansas citizen and defendant is a corporation
of Delaware and Washington. By nature, the cell phone
agreement involves interstate commerce. Assuming that
plaintiff is correct and the contract is fraudulent, that
does not invalidate the agreement to arbitrate. If plaintiff
claims the entire contract was fraudulent, rather than just
the arbitration agreement, then plaintiff's fraud
argument is left for the arbitrators to decide rather than
the courts. Prima Paint Corp. v. Flood & Conklin Mfg.