SCOTUS to Decide if Corporations Can Grant Themselves Complete Immunity from
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2013
Corporations want a get-out-of-jail-free card for cheating small businesses
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Supreme Court
will hear oral arguments today in a case that could provide corporations with
unfettered power to evade federal laws by keeping small businesses and
individuals out of the courts and forced into a rigged arbitration process.
In the case, American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, SCOTUS will
decide if corporations can force arbitration on small businesses and
individuals, even when it can be shown that the cost of forced arbitration
would make justice unattainable.
Forced arbitration occurs when corporations insert a clause into the fine
print of contracts stating that all disputes must be resolved on an individual
basis in a private system designed by the very corporation the claim is
"Corporations use forced arbitration clauses to stack the deck against small
businesses and individuals by eliminating access to justice," said American
Association for Justice (AAJ) President Mary Alice McLarty. "They should not
be allowed to get away with bullying and cheating small businesses by
manipulating the fine print of non-negotiable contracts."
In this case, a decision favoring forced arbitration over small businesses
could wipe out hope for any access to justice and allow corporations to get
away with widespread wrongdoing by eliminating statutory rights with the fine
print. Laws at risk include provisions of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and
1991, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with
Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards
Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Fair Pay Act, the Uniformed Services Employment
and Reemployment Rights Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Credit Repair
Organizations Act, the Sherman Act, the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934 and the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act.
"It is imperative that Congress and federal agencies act to protect American
consumers and small businesses," commented McLarty. "Unless they step in,
corporations will be able to get away with widespread wrongdoing and erase all
legislative progress made to protect consumers, employees, and small
This case falls on the heels of CompuCredit v. Greenwood and AT&T Mobility v.
Concepcion – two of the latest barriers preventing Americans from receiving
justice and holding powerful interests accountable.
AAJ joined in filing an amicus brief in support of the small businesses with
Public Justice and AARP. This brief can be found online here.
oIn this case, small businesses are seeking to hold AmEx accountable for
violating federal antitrust laws.
oThe small businesses allege that AmEx is violating antitrust laws with a
tying arrangement by using its monopoly power over charge cards to force
merchants to take all AmEx-branded credit cards and pay higher fees.
oAmEx's merchant contracts require individual forced arbitration to resolve
disputes. AmEx's arbitration clauses also do not allow merchants to shift
or share the expenses of arbitrating a claim with other merchants.
oThe small businesses presented ample evidence to the court to show that
the costs of an individual arbitration would have been many times more
than the possible maximum amount of damages that each would recover. The
costs of a single antitrust market study necessary for each arbitration
claim could exceed $1 million, while each claimant's potential damages
would be no more than a few thousand dollars.
oIf small businesses are forced to try to resolve this dispute in
individual arbitration, they will not be able to effectively vindicate
their rights and AmEx will be allowed to get away with widespread
For more information on forced arbitration, visit
As the world's largest trial bar, the American Association for Justice
(formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) works to make
sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system
when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others--even when it
means taking on the most powerful corporations. Visit http://www.justice.org.
SOURCE American Association for Justice
Contact: Michelle Widmann Kimmel , American Association for Justice,
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