ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS HELP THE LITTLE GUY?

You remember Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, don’t you? Access to the justice system is a right we hold dear in the United States. What if you have a dispute with a landlord, credit card company, hospital or nursing home? You go to your local court house to file a claim. Well millions of Americans are now learning the hard way, they can’t go to the local court house and have a jury of their peers help – they have given away that right in small type print when they bought the product or signed the contract. Most people never even know they have agreed to binding arbitration and waived their right to a jury, until they want to exercise those rights in Court. Thankfully, many are trying to change the current system.

LA Times reports “The fight has escalated as the legislation has gained momentum. The measure, attached to a House bill that deals with the sub-prime loan crisis, would make arbitration voluntary instead of mandatory in residential mortgage contracts. Another, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and attached to the farm bill, would prohibit binding arbitration between livestock and poultry producers and packers, unless the parties agree. The broadest and most controversial measure, introduced by Feingold in the Senate and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) in the House, would make arbitration voluntary in consumer, employment, franchise and medical contracts.

Johnson, a lawyer, said parties in disputes should be free to turn to the courts, arguing that mandatory arbitration amounts to a “private judicial system” that “benefits the commercial interests at the expense of consumers and employees.”

We agree – we warn citizens not to sign them, but in the medical context, they can be denied health care for refusing to sign. What do you do about it then? Give in to the pressure, sign, and find that limited access to courts is now, almost the price of doing business.

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.