Kensu v. Jpay, Inc.

Decision Date11 March 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 18-11086
PartiesTemujin Kensu, Plaintiff, v. JPay, Inc., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

Temujin Kensu, Plaintiff,
JPay, Inc., Defendant.

Case No. 18-11086


March 11, 2019

Sean F. Cox United States District Court Judge


On June 26, 2018, Plaintiff Temujin Kensu filed his amended complaint in this putative class action against JPay, Inc., the exclusive provider of e-communications and e-entertainment for the Michigan Department of Corrections ("MDOC"). Kensu, a prisoner, seeks to represent all similarly situated prisoners who have "purchased products, contents, and services from [JPay], represented by [JPay] to be of a different kind, quality, and fundamental model than the product content or service actually was." (ECF No. 18, PageID 697).

Kensu's amended complaint includes ten counts: (1) declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2201; (2) breach of contract; (3) violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, MCL § 445.901 et seq.; (4) violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (5) breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing; (6) negligent misrepresentation; (7) unjust enrichment; (8) fraud/intentional misrepresentation; (9) breach of express warranty; (10) breach of implied warranty. Kensu seeks restitution, injunctive

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relief, costs and attorney fees, and any other relief the court deems appropriate.

The Court referred all pre-trial matters to Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris. (ECF No. 7). On July 10, 2018, JPay filed a motion to compel arbitration. (ECF No. 19). On October 22, 2018, Judge Morris issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"), wherein she recommended that the Court grant JPay's motion to compel arbitration. (ECF No. 23).

Kensu filed timely objections to Judge Morris's R&R. (ECF No. 24). JPay responded. (ECF No. 25). The Court will review Kensu's objections de novo. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3).

First, Kensu objects to Judge Morris's R&R because she failed to consider that this case cannot be arbitrated by JAMS, the arbitrator specified in the agreement. Kensu argues that, because "JAMS...will find that the [agreement's] terms fail to meet [its] minimum consumer standards," JAMS will refuse to arbitrate this case. Kensu further contends that, because JAMS's participation is "an integral part" of the agreement, its absence precludes enforcement. (ECF No. 24, PageID 1124-1128).

Kensu is correct that Judge Morris did not address this argument. But this omission was likely for good reason: the Court should not—and will not—speculate on how a private entity might interpret and apply its own internal standards. Further, if JAMS does decline to arbitrate this case, the Federal Arbitration Act already provides for the appropriate path forward. See 9 U.S.C. § 5.1 At that time, Kensu's argument that JAMS's participation is necessary might be appropriate. Until then, it is not. The Court overrules this objection.

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In Kensu's second objection, he argues that Judge Morris incorrectly concluded that (1) his claims attacked the validity of JPay's Terms of Use ("TOU") as a whole rather than only the arbitration agreement, and (2) he was required to plead fraud in the inducement.

"[I]n deciding whether a valid agreement to arbitrate exists, district courts may consider only claims concerning the validity of the arbitration clause itself, as opposed to challenges to the validity of the contract as a whole," Great Earth Companies, Inc. v. Simons, 288 F.3d 878, 889 (6th Cir. 2002) ("Great Earth"), because "attacks on an entire contract's validity, as distinct from attacks on the arbitration clause alone, are within the arbitrator's ken." Preston v. Ferrer, 552 U.S. 346, 353 (2008). Arbitration agreements need not be enforced when "grounds ... exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract." 9 U.S.C. § 2. Thus, "agreements to arbitrate [may] be invalidated by 'generally applicable contract defenses, such as ... unconscionability.' " AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 339 (2011) (quoting Doctor's Assocs., Inc. v. Casarotto, 517 U.S. 681, 687 (1996))

Here, Kensu argues that "[t]he JPay Contract is the definition of an oppressive adhesion contract" because it is procedurally and substantively unconscionable. Judge Morris concluded that Kensu's "unconscionability argument based on the take it or go without e-communication in prison aspect of the TOUs 'unquestionably go[es] to the validity of the [] agreement as a whole, rather than the arbitration provisions specifically.'" (ECF No. 23, PageID 1107)...

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