Melaas v. Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection DevelopmentAnnotate this Case
Kathleen Melaas appealed a district court order granting a motion to compel arbitration and dismissing her complaint against Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, LLC. She alleged Diamond Resorts offered vacation and timeshare packages, she attended a sales meeting with a Diamond Resorts representative, the sales meeting lasted approximately five hours, and she asked to leave the meeting on at least one occasion and Diamond Resorts refused to allow her to leave. She claimed Diamond Resorts knew she was a diabetic and experienced fatigue and confusion, Diamond Resorts knew she was a vulnerable adult subject to a durable power of attorney for financial management, and Diamond Resorts would not allow her to leave the sales meeting until she signed the timeshare agreement. Melaas asserted she lacked the capacity to enter into the agreement, Diamond Resorts used high-pressure and abusive sales tactics and knowledge of her medical condition to unduly influence and coerce her into signing the agreement, and any consent was obtained by duress and menace. After a hearing, the district court granted Diamond Resorts’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed Melaas’ complaint. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that the forum selection clause in section 17 of the contract was not part of the arbitration agreement. The forum selection clause stated, “This Agreement is governed by Nevada law without regard to Nevada’s choice of law rules. You must bring any legal action in Clark County, Nevada.” When the term “Agreement” was used in the contract, the Court found it referred to the entire contract and not the arbitration agreement. To the extent Diamond Resorts argued the action should have been brought in Nevada, it was a venue issue and not a jurisdictional issue, and the right could be waived. The issue of improper venue was waived if it was omitted from a motion to dismiss or if it was not made by motion or included in the responsive pleading. On remand, if any of the parties argue the case must be dismissed under the forum selection clause, the district court must first determine whether a contract exists. If the court determines a contract exists, it could then consider the forum selection clause issue, including whether the issue was waived. The order compelling arbitration and dismissing Melaas' complaint was reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings.