28. May 2010 01:24
Just what is the United States Supreme Court doing? It is clear that this conservative Court is attempting to do away with all legal devices available to consumers of this country seeking to vindicate their rights against corporate America.
So what does Stolt-Nielsen (U.S Supreme Court decision from April 27th) actually hold? The majority opinion requires that there be a contractual basis -- in other words an "agreement" -- between the parties to engage in class arbitration of the claims and that the parties cannot be compelled to arbitrate on a class-wide basis based simply based on legitimate "public policy" to do so.
Significantly, Justice Ginsburg, in a well written dissent, correctly observed that the majority left open the issue of what would constitute an "agreement" to arbitrate a class action. She further pointed out that the parties in Stolt-Nielsen were "sophisticated" business entities that knew what they were doing when they negotiated their agreement. Of course, virtually 99% of the time that is not the case and certainly never the case with the average consumer that is compelled to take a contract as presented with no opportunity whatsoever to negotiate terms.
So the bottom line is that the Stolt-Nielsen majority decision, which is sure to sporn all sorts of new litigation as to what constitutes an "agreement" to class arbitration, may not really impact the average consumer seeking to enforce his/her rights afterall. Only a class action lawyer can tell you that for sure and I urge you to consult one if you have any thoughts of pursuing legal remedies on behalf of yourself and a class of other similarly affected individuals.