Green Tree Financial Corp.-Ala. v. Randolph, 531 U.S. 79 (2000)

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OCTOBER TERM, 2000

Syllabus

GREEN TREE FINANCIAL CORP.-ALABAMA et al. v. RANDOLPH

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 99-1235. Argued October 3, 2000—Decided December 11, 2000

Respondent Randolph's mobile home financing agreement with petitioners, financial institutions, required that Randolph buy insurance protecting petitioners from the costs of her default and also provided that all disputes under the contract would be resolved by binding arbitration. Randolph later sued petitioners, alleging that they violated the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) by failing to disclose the insurance requirement as a finance charge and that they violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by requiring her to arbitrate her statutory causes of action. Among its rulings, the District Court granted petitioners' motion to compel arbitration, dismissed Randolph's claims with prejudice, and denied her request for reconsideration, which asserted that she lacked the resources to arbitrate, and as a result, would have to forgo her claims against petitioners. The Eleventh Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to review the District Court's order under 16(a)(3) of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which allows appeals from "a final decision with respect to an arbitration that is subject to this title." The court determined that a final, appealable order within this provision is one that disposes of all the issues framed by the litigation, leaving nothing to be done but execute the order, and found the District Court's order within that definition. Determining also that the arbitration agreement failed to provide the minimum guarantees that Randolph could vindicate her statutory rights under the TILA, the court observed that the agreement was silent with respect to payment of arbitration expenses, and therefore held the agreement unenforceable because it posed a risk that Randolph's ability to vindicate her statutory rights would be undone by "steep" arbitration costs.

Held:

1. Where, as here, the District Court has ordered the parties to proceed to arbitration, and dismissed all the claims before it, the decision is "final" under 16(a)(3), and therefore appealable. The term "final decision" has a well-developed and longstanding meaning: It is a decision that ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing more for the court to do but execute the judgment. E. g., Digital Equipment Corp. v. Desktop Direct, Inc., 511 U. S. 863, 867. Because the FAA does not

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