Barras v. Branch Banking & Trust Co.

Defendant-Appellant Branch Banking & Trust Company (BB&T) appealed the denial of its motion to compel arbitration of a putative class action brought by Plaintiff-Appellee Lacy Baras, a customer of BB&T. Barras alleged in her complaint on behalf of herself and the class she sought to represent that BB&T charged her and others overdraft fees for payments from checking accounts even when the account contained sufficient funds to cover the payments. She also alleged that BB&T supplied inaccurate and misleading information about account balances, and failed to notify customers about changes to BB&T's policies for processing checking account transactions, thereby increasing overdraft charges assessed against customers. Barras asserted claims under the state Unfair Trade Practices Act for unfair and deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and unconscionability, and sought to certify a class of BB&T account holders who were likewise charged allegedly inflated overdraft fees. BB&T moved to compel arbitration of all of Barras's claims pursuant to a provision in its "Bank Services Agreement" (BSA). The district court denied BB&T's motion, holding that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable under state law, and could not be enforced. Before the Eleventh Circuit decided BB&T's appeal to that order, the Supreme Court decided "AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion" (131 S.Ct. 1740 (2011). The Eleventh Circuit remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration in light of that decision. On remand, BB&T renewed its motion to compel arbitration, and again the district court denied it. BB&T appealed that ruling, arguing that: (1) the question of whether the arbitration provision was enforceable must be resolved by an arbitrator; (2) the cost-and-fee shifting provision in the agreement that the district court held unconscionable did not apply to the arbitration provision; (3) "Concepcion" prohibited application of the state unconscionability doctrine to the arbitration provision; (4) the cost-and-fee shifting provision is not unconscionable; and (5) the cost-and-fee shifting privision was severable from the arbitration process. Taking each argument in turn, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case with instructions to compel arbitration. View "Barras v. Branch Banking & Trust Co." on Justia Law