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Citraro v. Computertraining.com, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District

July 25, 2013

COREY CITRARO, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES
v.
COMPUTERTRAINING.COM INC., ET AL. DEFENDANTS APPEAL BY SALLIE MAE, INC. DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-787979

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Stephen H. Jett Brian E. Ambrosia Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, L.L.P, Jonathan W. Garlough Robert H. Griffith Foley & Larnder, L.L.P., Michael C. Lueder Foley & Larnder, L.L.P.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES David R. Mayo Michael J. Meyer Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, & Aronoff, L.L.P.

BEFORE: Rocco, P.J., Blackmon, J., and E.T. Gallagher, J.

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

KENNETH A. ROCCO, P.J.

{¶ 1} This case involves the enforceability of an arbitration agreement between plaintiffs-appellees Corey Citraro ("Corey") and Charles Citraro ("Charles") (collectively "the Citraros") and defendant-appellant Sallie Mae, Inc. ("Sallie Mae"). The trial court determined that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because one of the potential arbitration forums referenced in the agreement had become unavailable. The law governing the arbitration agreement and the language of the agreement itself do not support this conclusion, and so we reverse the trial court's final judgment.

{¶ 2} Corey is a former student at a vocational school owned and operated by the four non-Sallie Mae defendants in this case ("the Computer Training defendants"). To finance his education, Corey entered into - and Charles cosigned - a promissory note ("the Note") with Sallie Mae, a private, financial services company specializing in education.[1] The Note includes an arbitration agreement ("the Arbitration Agreement"):

XVI. ARBITRATION AGREEMENT
To the extent permitted under federal law, you and I agree that either party may elect to arbitrate - and require the other party to arbitrate - any Claim under the following terms and conditions. This Arbitration Agreement is part of the Sallie Mae Educational Loan Program Promissary Note ("Note").
1. RIGHT TO REJECT: I may reject this Arbitration Agreement by mailing a signed rejection notice * * * within 60 days after the date of my Note. * * *
2. IMPORTANT WAIVERS: If you or I elect to arbitrate a Claim, you and I both waive the right to * * * have a court or a jury decide the Claim *
3. DEFINITIONS: In this Arbitration Agreement the following definitions will apply:
"I, " "me, " and "my" mean each and every Borrower and Cosigner on the Note; [and] the Student on whose behalf the proceeds of the Note have been advanced * * * "You, " "your, " and "yours" [includes] * * * Sallie Mae * * *. "Administrator" means, as applicable, the American Arbitration Association * * * or the National Arbitration Forum * * * provided that the Administrator must not have in place a formal or informal policy that is inconsistent with an purports to override the terms of this Arbitration Agreement. The National Arbitration Forum will be the Administrator unless: (a) you and I agree otherwise; (b) I am the Claimant and I initiate an arbitration before the American Arbitration Association or (c) I assert a Claim in court, you elect to arbitrate the Claim and I give you written notice that I am selecting the American Arbitration Association as Administrator within 20 days thereafter (or, if I dispute your right to require arbitration of my Claim, I select the American Arbitration Association as Administrator within 20 days after that dispute is finally resolved).
5. STARTING AN ARBITRATION: To initiate an arbitration, you or I must give written notice of an election to arbitrate. This notice may be given after a lawsuit has been filed and may be given in papers or motions in the lawsuit. If such a notice is given, the Claim shall be resolved by arbitration under this ...

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