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« On the Move | Main | Chadbourne & Park Goes Green »

April 02, 2008

Comments

Taylor Lincoln - Public Citizen

A few points here.

This posting falsely portrays the debate over binding mandatory arbitration as one pitting businesses and plaintiffs lawyers. It is not. Mandatory binding arbitration tramples on the rights of regular citizens and there is a large coalition of citizens' groups fighting for legislation to halt its use.

We at Public Citizen are one of those groups. Notably, the Chamber's report was issued (as its title indicates) in response to a study we issued [link: http://www.citizen.org/documents/Final_wcover.pdf] last fall. Any coverage of the Chamber’s report should include our response, and one is available here: [http://citizen.typepad.com/watchdog_blog/]

I encourage people interested in the debate on binding mandatory arbitration to read the Chamber's report closely. Though it disingenuously claims that our study was built on a foundation of myths, the Chamber's author deserves credit for eschewing outright fables in the details under his headings. The text actually does a nice job of affirming our findings. Example: the report says our claim that arbitration removes one's right to a jury trial is a “myth.” And the “reality” is ...? Well, the report doesn't deny that we are correct; it opts instead to argue most court cases don't go before a jury, anyways. That's true, and we will remember that claim the next time the tort refrain crowd squawks about jury awards. But, as Walter Mondale might have asked, Where's the myth?

Here are a few quick things we noticed. The Chamber simultaneously argued that arbitration imposed by companies is fair but that both parties will almost never agree to arbitration after a dispute arises if they have a choice? How does one reconcile those views?

The survey (diplomatically characterized here as “slightly leading to an untrained eye”) never evidently asked respondents if they would prefer to have a choice of whether to have their case heard in court or arbitration; did not inform respondents that arbitration companies are hired by the actual businesses with whom consumers might find themselves in dispute; and did not clearly inform respondents that consumers retain no recourse if they are unable to achieve a satisfactory resolution in arbitration.

Oh, and did anyone notice that the Chamber's case study of arbitration working well for consumers was one involving a $281 dispute? Our report points out days in which single arbitrators have handed out more than $500,000 in awards in a single day. They were all in favor of business, but still ... Chamber, is that the best you can do?

RyanZ

The Chamber materials released at the press conference are available online here:
http://instituteforlegalreform.com/issues/issue.cfm?issue=ADR

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