Midland Funding LLC v. Bordeaux was decided by the Appellate Division in a published decision today. The underlying case involves a credit card debt collections matter. The plaintiff bought the credit card debt and tried to enforce an arbitration agreement allegedly contained in the credit card agreement. Bordeaux counterclaimed violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The amount of the outstanding debt was $1018.04.
The Special Civil Part judge held a hearing that lasted less than 2 minutes to determine whether the arbitration clause was enforceable. The judge found that it was — dismissing the case with prejudice — and thus all other issues were moot. The cardholder appealed.
The Appellate panel ruled that there was no proof the cardholder ever agreed to an arbitration and that she was not warned that she would be giving up the right to go to court, as NJ law requires. The court also somewhat admonished the unnamed lower court judge for not allowing all sides to present their case (my emphasis).
We are satisfied that the record we have described demonstrates plaintiff’s failure to meet its burden of proving that defendant agreed to arbitrate. We thus reverse the order dismissing the case and ordering arbitration. We anticipate that the court will engage counsel with more patience on remand.
This is a case that should have settled. The appeals process alone cost likely more than the underlying claims. And the case has been remanded for further proceedings. Sometimes “right and wrong” get lost in emotions. Special Civil Part court provides for free mediation. Hopefully, they will get into mediation and settle this case.