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Legal Tip #2 – Avoiding Arbitration

 

Banks. Cell phone service providers. Social networking sites. Insurance companies. Nursing homes.

What do they have in common?

They all attempt to rob you, their customer, of your day in court. And, usually, they succeed.

Forced arbitration is the cancer of the American justice system.  Accompanying—indeed accelerating— the national decline in civil jury trials is the appearance of arbitration clauses in contracts, particularly consumer contracts. These clauses eliminate your right to have your case decided in a court of law, by a jury of your peers; limit the information you can discover to help win your case; and, in many cases, greatly reduce the amount of damages you can ultimately recover against the company you are suing. When an arbitration clause is enforced, your case skips court altogether, going instead to an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators. This tribunal acts as judge, jury, and —often for plaintiffs’ claims— executioner.

In short, you should avoid arbitration clauses whenever possible. Should you brush up against one, you’ll need experienced legal counsel to protect your rights.

Why You Don’t Want to Arbitrate?

  1. Because the companies want to. In the zero-sum game of dispute resolution, you can bet that if arbitration was good for you, the companies wouldn’t insist on it.
  2. You want a jury. Juries are comprised of people. You are a person. The jury will like you more than it will like a corporation, which is a fake person. A jury trial is the great equalizer for you, because in almost all case you will have less power and resources than a corporate defendant. As a wise man once said, “the jury is the Achilles’ heel of tyrants.”
  3. The arbitration panel is likely biased in favor of the corporation. If you were an arbitrator and made money by way of companies compelling people to arbitrate before you, wouldn’t you be more likely to rule in favor of the companies? Arbitrators know where their bread is buttered.  As Thomas Fuller said, “A fox should not be on the jury at a goose’s trial.” In this scenario, the “jury” is arbitration; the arbitrator is the fox.  And you are —you guessed it— the goose.

What You Can Do About It?

  1. Shop Elsewhere. If possible—in some cases it’s not—find a bank or a cell phone provider who doesn’t shove arbitration down your throat.
  2. Opt Out. Many companies send letters to customers soon after they sign a contract, allowing customers to opt out of arbitration. They do this for one reason: If there’s ever any question about whether you agreed to arbitrate disputes, they can point to the letter and say, “We even gave the customer a chance to retain their right to a jury trial, and the customer chose arbitration.” Companies expect most people to ignore these letters and waive their day in court. Call their bluff.
  3. Hire the Right Lawyers. The trial attorneys at Leesfield Scolaro know their way around an arbitration clause.  The firm has a rich legacy of pushing back against companies and fighting for plaintiffs, keeping them in court whenever possible and obtaining the best possible outcome.

If you have been wronged by a company or and want to know how to navigate the waters of arbitration, call us today for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

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