Public Citizen Litigation Group's next Supreme Court argument (our 57th) comes in a case of crucial importance to consumers and employees. The question to be decided is whether companies ban class actions in their take-it-or-leave-it contracts.
If you have signed up for a credit card, purchased cell-phone or cable service, or taken a job with a large employer, the chances are good that you have signed a mandatory arbitration agreement. Increasingly, many of these agreements not only force people to arbitrate any disputes, rather than having the option of going to court, but they include clauses that purport to strip consumers and employees of the right to seek classwide relief - whether in court or in arbitration.
Whether corporations can enforce class-action bans is a vigorously disputed question in consumer and employment law. The answer matters because class actions are often the only way to stop companies from getting away with practices that cheat large numbers of people out of small amounts of money. As Judge Posner has written, "[t]he realistic alternative to a class action is not 17 million individual suits, but zero individual suits, as only a lunatic or a fanatic sues for $30."
On Monday, May 24, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which presents the question whether the Federal Arbitration Act preempts rulings that particular class-action bans are unconscionable under generally applicable state contract law. Along with attorneys at Hulett Harper Stewart and at Nicholas & Butler in San Diego, the Litigation Group represents the respondents, Californians who seek to sue AT&T for imposing fraudulent charges for cell phone service.
You can read AT&T's cert. petition and our brief in opposition on our website