As part of an ongoing campaign by trial lawyers across America to end the abusive use of forced arbitration, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) has released a new report outlining how arbitration clauses stack the deck against American citizens. The report entitled “FORCED ARBITRATION: HOW CORPORATIONS USE THE FINE PRINT TO BULLY AMERICANS” provides an in depth analysis of how corporations use arbitration clauses to deprive consumers, workers, students, and patients of their 7th Amendment right to trial by jury when they have been injured by a corporate wrongdoer.
Buried in credit card agreements, employment contracts, nursing home admission papers, or in click through agreements that come with online purchases, are arbitration clauses designed to prevent you from utilizing your constitutional right to a trial by jury. Forced arbitration eliminates the right to hold corporations accountable in court when they injure someone or break the law. Instead, these claims are funneled into a system designed by the same wrongdoers against whom the claim is being made.
Unlike lawsuits, where the parties are given the opportunity to conduct meaningful discovery, take depositions, and have disputes over issues decided by judges, forced arbitration is different. There is no right to go to court, no right to a trial by jury, no right or a very limited right to conduct discovery, and no right to a judicial review. In forced arbitration, usually one individual, the arbitrator, acts as the judge and jury without the traditional checks and balances that are afforded to the parties in a lawsuit.
While there have been efforts both statewide and nationally to pass legislation eliminating the use of forced arbitration in certain situations, such as the admission of individuals to nursing homes, the corporations have successfully defeated the passing of such legislation to date. In the nursing home setting, there have been cases where individuals who were being admitted to nursing homes due to physical and/or mental disabilities, such as blindness, stroke, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and yet, those same individuals were required to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of their admission to the nursing home. These individuals, who are no longer capable of making rational decisions, are being required to sign arbitration agreements, giving up their right to a trial by jury if they are injured as a result of abuse and neglect in a nursing home. These deceptive and unfair practices must be stopped.