U.S. Supreme Court Holds FAA Permits Class Arbitration Waivers

Posted on June 24th, 2013 in Consumer Finance, Courts By BuckleySandler

On June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) does not permit courts to invalidate a class arbitration waiver “on the ground that the plaintiff’s cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim exceeds the potential recovery.” American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 570 U.S. ___ (2013). The Court reversed a Second Circuit decision that held that because the costs for the individual plaintiff to arbitrate its claims would be prohibitive, the class action waiver was unenforceable and arbitration could not proceed. The Court explained that the Second Circuit’s “effective vindication” doctrine is a judge-made exception to the FAA that “finds its origin in the desire to prevent ‘prospective waiver of a party’s right to pursue statutory remedies,’. . . [b]ut the fact that it is not worth the expense involved in proving a statutory remedy does not constitute the elimination of the right to pursue that remedy.” The Court added that there is no congressional command to reject the waiver of class arbitration, and that congressional approval of Rule 23 does not establish an entitlement to class proceedings for the vindication of statutory rights.

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