The Supreme Court yesterday dealt a death blow to consumers filing class action suits in ruling that companies can use arbitration clauses in consumer and employment contracts to block class actions. California judges had held that class action waivers in arbitration clauses are unenforceable. The Supreme Court reversed and thought otherwise. However, without class actions, it is difficult to hold corporations responsible for harms that affect large numbers of persons. Sometimes, amounts are just too small for individual law suits but can amount to huge sums of money where many consumers are affected. The case of AT & T v. Concepcion, is a devastating decision for consumers and consumer advocates.
With the Wal-Mart class action looming before the court, the hand writing may be on the wall as to which way the Supreme Court will decide it. Although, the decision was a close one, with the Court split 5-4, the losing side was clearly the American consumer and the winner was big corporations. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan dissented.
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer who has represented clients in defective products cases. She is also a legal and political commentator who contributes to the Huffington Post. She holds a juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.