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Corporate America: Arbitration Clauses Stripping Consumers of Amendment Rights

November 21, 2015  ·  By HM&M

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Developed to protect Americans from government corruption, the Bill of Rights has afforded us with many freedoms. Yet, behind the scenes, Wall Street companies are silently stripping away some of those very same rights with their muddy legal jargon, intentionally deceptive practices, and carefully planted arbitration clauses. Unfortunately, most Americans are unaware of such practices. It is not until they are completely blindsided that they realize just how much corporations are taking advantage of them today.

How the Legal Landscape Has Changed

Comprised of individual plaintiffs that have banded together, class-action lawsuits are meant to force corporations into admitting their wrongdoings (or, at the very least, paying for their mistakes). They give individuals an effective and low-cost means with which to challenge ill-behaving corporations with seemingly endless resources. Unfortunately, class-action cases have become almost non-existent now that companies have found a way to work around them with arbitration clauses.

What is an Arbitration Clause?

Arbitration clauses are carefully worded statements that prevent class-action lawsuits. They force individual plaintiffs into arbitration (settlement) where they are only allowed to sue for the damages they have personally incurred. According to the corporations, this gives consumers an “easy” way to solve their grievances, but a closer look suggests that arbitration has very little to do with helping the consumer.

Arbitration Clauses Designed for Corporations

Engineered by a coalition of Wall Street credit card companies and retailers, arbitration clauses started with one objective: insulation from the damages of costly lawsuits. They say it was to offset the hefty sums collected by plaintiffs’ attorneys, and that it had nothing to do with the consumers. However, when looking at the numbers, it is clear that it is the consumer who is suffering.

According to court documents reviewed by the New York Times, 1,179 class-action lawsuits were filed between 2010 and 2014. In four out of five of those cases, judges ruled in favor of arbitration. In 2014 alone, 134 of 162 class-action bans were upheld. Still there are real examples of how infrequently consumers end up pursuing arbitration. For example, Verizon, which has 125 million subscribers, has only faced 65 arbitrations over the last five years. Also, Time Warner, which has 15 million subscribers, has only faced seven arbitration cases.

To make matters worse, two-thirds of all consumers who actually do go to arbitration for issues like credit card fraud, erroneous fees, or costly loans never see any sort of monetary compensation. When you consider how much they must spend to go through with arbitration (and how small their individual damages may be), it is not hard to understand why so many Americans fail to follow through with arbitration. Of course, that opens consumers up to a whole different set of problems.

Corporate America and Its Lack of Accountability

On first glance, arbitration clauses may seem to be a small problem affecting little things like overcharges on credit card bills (which makes companies billions of dollars). But there are arbitration clauses in places you might not think of—doctors, schools, employers, and even nursing homes are using them, too. In fact, it is almost impossible to rent a car, buy a cell phone, open a checking account, visit the doctor, or even get a job without signing an arbitration clause. Even more ominous is how many of these clauses are releasing companies and individuals from liability in downright deplorable offenses like rape, wrongful death, or sexual harassment.

Take, for instance, Taco Bell, who was sued for allegedly degrading and denying promotions to their African-American employees. Or the top executive of Goldman Sachs, who was sued for alleged sexual discrimination. And the workplace sexual assault case sent into binding arbitration, per the request of Halliburton. Yes, corporations are getting away with just about everything these days.

Do Not Face a Corporation Alone

If you or someone you love has been injured by the irresponsible or negligent actions of a corporation, medical practitioner, or another party, do not attempt to go at it alone. You need someone by your side that is ready to fight for your rights. You need skilled attorneys that are willing to handle your case aggressively and to help you get receive the compensation you deserve.

With more than two decades of experience in some of the most complex medical malpractice, personal injury, and defective products cases, Hurley, McKenna & Mertz, P.C. can help. The tactics used by businesses, practitioners, or corporations to limit their liability do not intimidate us. Schedule your free consultation with our Chicago personal injury attorneys today.


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