back to article US Supremes deal death blow to class action lawsuits

The US Supreme Court has granted a whopping victory to AT&T, the US Chamber of Commerce, and supportive corporations, by reversing previous court decisions that had prevented corporations from requiring individual arbitration of customers' complaint. By issuing its 5-4 decision on Wednesday, the Court has essentially stripped …


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  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    The result of multiple "Business friendly" administrations

    A Supreme court that will be *very* sympathetic to their PoV.

    Not *actually* corrupt you understand.

    Just *very* sympathetic.

    And it would seem inconsistent (State Vs Federal looses when *not* in the interests of business, but wins when it is).

  2. Yag
    Thumb Down


    Phase 2 : Add a "you can not sue us for any reason" clause in all contracts.

    1. MeRp

      ...that is

      That is exactly what the arbitration clause in most service contracts is; you may not sue us; you agree to binding arbitration instead.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Here we go again...

    You didn't warn that this was an "opinion piece"... and seriously, where the hell is the IT angle?!?!

    Sorry to yell, but try to at least pretend you're writing a valid "article"!

    If this keeps up, I'm canceling my subscription!

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Here we go again...

      Sorry to yell, but SHUT UP.

      1. Arctic fox

        WHAY TO GO SARAH!!!

        Ahem, cough, shuffle. No, I am in fact not taking the micky. I agree with your point.



  4. Daggersedge
    Paris Hilton

    Freedom? Not if you aren't a corporation!

    First the US Supreme Court ruled that eminent domain meant that private developers could take people's property by force. Now it has ruled that individuals must use corporate arbitration procedures, no matter how unfair. On top of that, the US taxpayer has been forced to fund the bail-out of the banks.

    Americans like to shout that their right to own guns protects their freedoms. Certainly working well, isn't it?

    Paris, because she doesn't know what she's going to do next, either.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where's my law book? The one for the rich.

    "so long as the State does not adopt a special rule that disfavors arbitration."

    I'm confused now, so they voted against AT&T's appeal right? Or are they saying "we try to hide that our decision doesn't make any sense by using big clever confusing words in the middle of 18 pages of stuff we hope noone will read because if they do and have half a brain they'll spot right away that we're fuil of manure".

    "We find it ironic that at a time..."

    As far as I'm concerned, I find it pathetic. I was going to aim for irony but got interrupted by the need to wipe the puke out of my shoes. Still a good point in the paragraph.

    1. Colin Millar

      Dont be confused

      The first bit you quote was from the dissenting supreme.

      As I read it he was saying that the states shouldn't pre-empt any contrcat provision for arbitration but that likewise - the contract should not be able to be enforced so as to strip consumers of their rights - there must be a remedy in law for unreasonable application of contracts and the court cannot know in advance how any contract provision for arbitration might be:

      a) written or

      b) applied in practice

      He is basically saying that each case must be judged on its merits and that neither the contract nor the state should be able to predetermine the issue.

      Unfortunately, he didn't prevail.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where's Erin Brockovich?

    Corporate lawyers will be busy cut'n'pasting this clause into their contracts; a big "Fuck You Very Much!" to US citizens from the Supremes.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge


      That's exactly right. From now on, every US corporation will include a similar clause in every one of their contracts and it will be practically impossible to sue them. I guess that *in theory* it could be possible to reject arbitration, appeal the result to a real court or sue them directly as an individual, but no individual has the time/money to do that.

      It will also be impossible for consumers to reject a contract with an arbitration clause, since all corporations will have it I as a consumer cannot choose to take my business to a competitor, for any service at all. So the options are live in the stone age, or suck it up

  7. Owen Carter


    Well known fact.. people banding together for any other reason than financial greed or military conquest; eg. in Unions, co-operatives, class actions, protest movements, etc.. is pure communism and must be suppressed.

    .. Welcome to our new masters.. Same as the old masters.

  8. Antoinette Lacroix


    It's more like a death blow to tort lawyers Mass suing without the the necessity of individual proof of damages seems unfair to me.

  9. KitD

    Interesting ...

    (well, mildly) that the men were all For and the women were all Against.

    Make of that what you will.

    1. Paul_Murphy

      You would assume so.

      But Antoinette is really a program designed to infiltrate forums and blogs to put across their paymasters views.

      (apologies to Antoinette)


  10. Jimbo in Thailand
    Paris Hilton

    Sadly, it's certainly not surprising...

    ...since the US Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, is made up 100% of political appointees masquerating as the cream of the of the black robed crop. Sure they're supposed to be vetted by the Congress, but even most of those idiots are bought and paid for corporate stooges, so no unbiased confirmations are even remotely possible. Don't forget the US Supreme Court is the same cutthroat backstabbing group that set the US on the road to ruin way back in 1896 when it first gave US corporations 'person' rights during the court case Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2010 they again showed their true allegiance to corporations when they voted to allow unlimited corporate political spending to further sway elections and completely make a mockery of a citizen's vote.

    When are people going to realize it's REALLY time for Change We Can Believe In (not to be confused with Obama's outright 2008 campaign lies)?!!

    Paris laments, "Why can't we just skip a step and send all political appointees & corporate stooges to Hell right now? After all, they're eventually going there anyway...why wait?"

  11. Jonjonz

    Say Hi to the Jackboot

    Get comfortable with being ruled by corporations. Its called FASCISM yokels. It is evil.

    Democracy and capitalism are dead.

    1. Snapper Bronze badge


      Suggest you read the definition of Fascism/National Socialism before you make such a ridiculous statement.

      1. Tom 13

        Actually, you would be the one who needs to go back to

        read the definition. Fascism actually has nothing to do with burning Jews in gas ovens even though that's what people now a days associate it with. As Mussolini established it (and he was the one to originate the term) it was the government controlling the key corporations and industries so as to control the people. Interestingly, Mussolini actually sought the help of prominent Jews and worked to protect them. That changed when Hitler decided Mussolini was no longer a reliable ally and installed his own goons to run the government with Mussolini as the figurehead. Not that not killing Jews makes the system less oppressive, but I do like to keep the facts straight.

  12. Number6

    Lots of little actions

    Provided the little guys all talk and share information, filing a million individual cases is going to take up a lot of Big Corporation time, especially if the "you're the only one with the problem" brush-off doesn't work.

    Just refuse to sign any sort of non-disclosure agreement unless you get adequate payment for it.

    The other fun thing to try is to cross out the bits of their standard contract you don't like, but be prepared to either not get service or back down when they refuse to accept your version.

  13. Tasogare

    "...a victory for consumers."

    I expect corporations to lie to me, but I still went bug-eyed at that one.

  14. F111F


    Geez, the whining and complaining...

    You all love to hack the items you buy, so hack the sales agreements. Strike out the offending portions, hand it back and if they accept, you're good to go. For those purchasing on-line, put out a program that allows us to hack the sales agreements and strike out offending portions.

    Next, identify those corporations that keep these items in their contracts and urge everyone to not buy from them. Corporations are moved only by $$. Hit them in their pocketbook and they'll change their tune readily enough.

    Mine's the one with the new sales agreement in the pocket...

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      @ F111F: A quick question:

      What world do you live in, again?

  15. Daedalus
    Thumb Up

    Boo hoo

    I've been invited to take part in several class action lawsuits over the past few years. In all cases I stood to make a few bucks while the lawyers made millions. That's the reality of these suits in the USA. They were a form of legalized mugging. The Supremes did the country a favor by getting rid of the nickel-and-dime ones.

    Class action lawsuits for more serious torts (that's the official name for civil wrongdoing) will continue. Nobody ever signs or "tacitly accepts" a contract permitting a corporation to pollute their air or water, rip up their front yards or experiment on their kids. There will still be plenty of grist for the lawyers' mills. They'll just have to work harder.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      @Daedalus: One small thing you missed

      Yes, the lawyers (on **both** sides) got their wallets fattened, and that is not the best possible outcome. However, You neglect to note that, especially in the cases where the plaintiffs prevailed (a goodly number, I wot), BigCorp lost. It cost them money!!! (Even if they win, it still costs them money.) Since money is the lifeblood of BigCorp fat-asses everywhere, getting involved in one of these large class-action lawsuits hurts them in the only place they can feel. And even though the outcome is almost always ensconced in the classic legalese, "We admit to no wrongdoing, yakkety-smakkety, blah, blah blah...", their behavior is modified. And that is a Good Thing(tm).

      Now, how ya gonna modify their behavior?

      If fattening a lawyer's wallet is the only check and balance we have agains BigCorp largesse, then I'm giving their wallets steroids!

      1. Daedalus

        Lose lose

        I love it when people try to stick it to Big Business. On the one hand, they can fail. On the other hand, they can succeed, but really when they do that they're sticking it to themselves. And when they fail, they're also sticking it to themselves, because it still takes money to defend yourself in court. The money that companies spend to defend themselves is money they are charging their clients, be they consumers or other companies. The same is true of money they pay in settlements and damages. And in taxes and duties, for that matter.

        So, dear Someone Else, have your dance of glee. Yeah, we stick it to 'em. Sue 'em, tax 'em, make 'em squirm. Ignore that pain in your wallet, that ache in the back of your neck. Somebody benefits from all the hue and cry. It just isn't you.

  16. brando
    IT Angle

    Federal law > State law

    So the Supreme Court ruled this is yet another case where federal law trumps state law. Congress thus has the power to make this law say whatever it wants. Not particularly exciting news.

    If you have a problem with the law, you can call your Congressman, FWIW.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Going to hell.

    Such decisions are of the type which lead to "alternative justice." Laugh now, Cry later.

  18. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    Corporations play the legal system and the system not caring.

    It sickens me how the corporations keep seeking ways to game the legal system, to undermine it, to find ever more ways around it. Ways to cheat, ways to extend what they are allowed to do and all the time they do, we all loose, bit by bit more of our ability to stop them abusing us for their gain.

    Its an endless battle with them testing the extremes all the time, always seeking any crack they can force their greedy plans through and onto us and we loose more, always more. Which is why we need legal protection from them to protect us and yet our government representatives who are suppose to protect us don't really want to protect us (because they don't really care) that is unless we scare them into acting, which means many people standing together against them.

    Yet sadly this legal ruling means they have now found a very powerful way ignore our attempts to stand together in court to get them to listen to us. So now we can't even stand together, at least in court … oh that's just wonderful. :(

    Well if they refuse to want to listen to class actions in court, then they are going to cause more and more public anger out of court, as more crowds of people are forced to protest against the rich and powerful in corporations and governments, as these bastards in power have now found yet another way to ignore us all.

    If they don't want class actions then they are going to incite more public anger against them all, because people are getting ever sicker of the rich and powerful abuses and exploitation of everyone, always for the gain of the few rich and powerful bastards in corporations and government.

    Sadly if you pick any century, its that same sick pattern reoccurring time and time again. The rich abusing the poor and the poor have no power to stop the rich abusing them.

    Well enough, if they don't want to listen in court class actions, then they are going to have to listen to increasing public anger out of court and they only have themselves to blame for failing to protect the vast majority of the population.

  19. Wile E. Veteran
    Big Brother

    The Golden Rule

    Just further proof of the Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.

    Be afraid. VERY afraid!.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    its as if a million lawyers cried out and were silenced-

    because class action lawsuits, in reality, only benefit the legal teams. Companies don't change their behavior after such a suit, they only change the language in their contracts and advertising. The customers that got hosed out of $10, $20, $50 or whatever receive about $2.37 in a check, while the verbage-botherers take home a few million.

    Class action lawsuits are the lottery-investments for those too uneducated or clueless to know it's all about providing profit to someone else while giving a false "hope".

    Lawyers of course will fight this to the end, because otherwise they'll have to get a job where winning isn't everything, where you can't choose to "argue the law if you can't argue the facts". Maybe they'll all get management or advertising degrees, or try to fit more into politics-the last places where "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bulls**t" still apply.

    Notice the dissent is not only along party lockstep lines, but also among those justices who never did anything in their lives but "lawyering".

    Ah, lawyers. the scourge of society, and the only jokes as old as f@rt jokes. Even the Bard had something to say about them.

    my alltime favorite: How many lawyer jokes are there? Only two. the rest are true stories.

    1. Stevie


      A check? Are you serious?

      Typically, the winner in a Class Action suit of this kind gets the buy more of what they are complaining about, just for a little less money.

      I was swindled some years ago, along with millions of others, by a large insurance company atht outright lied as to how their financial instrument worked. When it all went titsup they got sued. The lawyers got paid cashmoney. The plaintiffs got the chance to buy cheaper insurance from the same company that had started the whole nasty affair.

      I've been involved in three of these kinds of suits and they all ended the same way. Swindled by a software manufacturer? How about some more of the same, with 5% off?

      Perhaps the secret is to couple the Lawyer's awards to those of the plaintiffs. I dunno. I do know that when I get a flyer in the mail asking if I want to join yet another class action suit I typically toss it these days.

  21. Mikel

    Tort lawyers

    Once upon a time there was some benefit to class-action lawsuits. Not any more. These days the lawyers reap millions while the the injured parties get a $5 coupon for more product. The payouts are handled by insurance companies and they don't impact a company's behavior at all - they just drive the cost of everything up.

    But what of the tort lawyers? There's an entire industry built up of just this sort of law practice and defending against it, and it seems it's just suffered an industry-wide tsunami. Won't someone cry for the lawyers who have just been made surplus?

  22. Oh Jesus
    Thumb Up


    I am really getting a kick out of all the amateur legal scholars on here who think that this *contract law* decision somehow involves tort law or corporate malfeasance. Good job!

  23. Eddy Ito
    Big Brother

    Big deal

    Now we need permission to sue corporations just like we always needed permission to sue the state. Great, just another sovereign entity. I can't wait until the courts decide the state can't sue corporations and corporations can't sue the state. Oh yeah, I'll have the beer and peanuts ready for that one... assuming I'm allowed of course.

  24. Tom 13

    As this (unlike say the EPA) is an actual case of inter-state commerce

    and the US Constitution explicitly grants the Federal government the power to regulate such commerce, the narrow majority handed down the only constitutionally acceptable decision. The pity is that 4 shills sitting on the court ignored this. Moreover, the way the arbitration regulation is written, class actions suits which impose onerous burdens on consumers can proceed and the court has not invalidated that claim.

  25. Midas
    Black Helicopters

    Neo-feudalism marches on...

    ... only this time there's no gentry, only faceless corporations.

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