In its recent decision in Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter, the United States Supreme Court affirmed its commitment to upholding the rulings of arbitrators “however good, bad, or ugly.” This decision is set to have grave effects on the rights of consumers in disputes with merchants or other large corporations because it further distances their decisions from review by a judge in all but the most egregious cases.
Arbitration clauses in contract are one of the most common ways that companies try to gain a legal advantage over their customers. By inserting a clause into sales agreements or licensing contracts, companies can prevent consumers from seeking a remedy and enforcing their rights in a court of law by forcing clients into arbitration, a trial-like forum where private judges decide disputes.
While arbitrations may be cheaper than litigation, many consumers may be disadvantaged by the process. Such arbitrations often limit the damages consumers can seek to less than what they could have been awarded in court. Also, arbitrators may be less neutral than a judge in court, due to an arbitrator’s concern about maintaining a reputation, the chance of being selected again by the company, and a variety of other factors. Additionally, arbitration clauses will often specify a forum where the dispute will be heard, giving the consumer no choice in where to resolve the dispute. Finally, arbitration proceedings are usually confidential, such that a party who suffers in the decision cannot refer to the proceedings later.
Fortunately, courts have held that under some circumstances, arbitration clauses may not be enforceable. And, even in cases where courts will enforce arbitration, having an attorney can be a valuable asset in equaling the balance of power. If you have been the victim of a fraud or other wrong by a company, the Gowen Group is here to help. Contact the Gowen Group and we can help you seek the remedy that you need and deserve.
Thanks to our law clerk, Ehren Wade, for contributing to this post.