Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Apr 2011 22:36 UTC
Legal "The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that AT&T - and indeed, any company - could block class-action suits arising from disputes with customers and instead force those customers into binding arbitration. The ruling reverses previous lower-court decisions that classified stipulations in AT&T's service contract which barred class arbitration as 'unconscionable'."
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Comment by Praxis
by Praxis on Thu 28th Apr 2011 23:20 UTC
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Worst ruling to come out of the supreme court this year. And now I'm sure every corp out there is rushing to amend their EULA boilerplate to make sure that no user of products can sue them now. Because apparently consumer choice, means choosing the brand of lube they use when they fuck you.

Reply Score: 10

RE: Comment by Praxis
by UltraZelda64 on Fri 29th Apr 2011 05:25 UTC in reply to "Comment by Praxis"
UltraZelda64 Member since:

You really put it like it is. Well said. Very well said.

Reply Score: 2

Got their money's worth
by Dasher42 on Fri 29th Apr 2011 01:51 UTC
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We think we own our government on election day, but big money owns it then and every other day too, apparently.

This is bad news across the board, way beyond EULAs on software. Can you imagine the story of Erin Brockovich and PG&E in Hinkley with class action lawsuits being off limits?

Reply Score: 5

RE: Got their money's worth
by galvanash on Fri 29th Apr 2011 06:34 UTC in reply to "Got their money's worth"
galvanash Member since:

Can you imagine the story of Erin Brockovich and PG&E in Hinkley with class action lawsuits being off limits?

You do realize that the case you are referencing was settled through arbitration don't you? There was no class action suit, it was originally a direct action.

I posted elsewhere on this thread about why I don't think this decision amounts to much. This case is a good example why, and it is by all accounts the largest settlement of it's kind ever awarded.

The original 1996 settlement was for $333 million dollars. This is how that amount was distributed:

1. Lawyers: $143 million (about 43%)
2. There were 650 individuals in the case. Payouts varied wildly. One person got $2 million (the largest amount known) but the VAST majority received $50 to $100 thousand who disclosed it publicly - no one knows exactly who got what because it is all secret.

One person, who had 17 tumors removed allegedly due to the groundwater contamination, got $80,000. That probably didn't even cover the medical bills...

Remember, this is the largest settlement of its kind in history. Such a large award with such a small group of individuals is very rare indeed.

My only point is whether it is class action or arbitration, the only people who really gain are the lawyers.

Reply Score: 2

by looncraz on Fri 29th Apr 2011 02:21 UTC
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Like, OMFG, really!?!?!

This supreme court is the worst we've had for the entire history of this nation.

The decision belies the entire design of the republic which it is meant to protect from violations against its design and intent.

Though this has just as much to do with congressional laziness in law drafting as with a bad bunch of justices...

--The loon

Reply Score: 2

RE: Ugh...
by CaptainN- on Mon 2nd May 2011 16:47 UTC in reply to "Ugh..."
CaptainN- Member since:

For a recent break failure on my Toyota (which they fixed in a recall) I received a class action settlement check of about $3.

Now, call me crazy, but I don't have a great deal of faith in the class action lawsuit process. If getting rid of it is what we need to open the door to replace it with something better (anything has to be better), so be it.

Remember, in politics, there is no end point. Only movement in one direction or another.

Reply Score: 1

Ill be the odd man out...
by galvanash on Fri 29th Apr 2011 06:03 UTC
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While I don't know the details of this case other than the brief write up on ars - I don't consider arbitration much worse than the current status quo...

If the choice, as a consumer, is between arbitration or being part of a class in a lawsuit - frankly I don't care much because either chose is basically worthless. The only people who benefit from 99% of class action suits are lawyers.

Your choices, as a consumer, are:

1. Sue privately and come up with the cash to pay the blood sucking lawyers (generally WAY more than it is worth). This is the only way to actually get any meaningful damages awarded.

2. Join a class action suit and not have to pay anything - however the only party who generally walks away with anything more than $5 is the lawyers...

3. Let an arbitrator decide the award privately. If there are no hidden arbitration costs this amounts to roughly the same thing as 2, except the party which mandated arbitration (the party who wrote the contract) generally has an unfair advantage.

Almost no one can afford 1, and even if they could they run the risk of being forced into a class action suit later. Granted 2 is marginally better than 3, but not much... The whole thing makes me go "meehhh"...

I think this is all much ado about nothing.

Edited 2011-04-29 06:06 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Ill be the odd man out...
by galvanash on Fri 29th Apr 2011 13:56 UTC in reply to "Ill be the odd man out..."
galvanash Member since:

...and before someone pounces on me about it, I understand and appreciate the concept of punishing the defendant when the actual damages per individual in the class is low but the size of the class is very large. Class action lawsuits really are currently the only reasonable legal avenue in these types of cases - and the main benefit is punishing the defendant, the plaintiffs rarely get any meaningful awards (usually a coupon for some such nonsense). For small damages, it would be ridiculous for individuals to file private lawsuits - I get that.

My problem with this is can we please try to come up with some other way to punish badly behaved corporations that doesn't involve giving all their money to lawyers (who are just as bad if not worse than the companies we are punishing)? WTF do we continue to do this? There has to be a better way...

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Ill be the odd man out...
by Praxis on Fri 29th Apr 2011 17:30 UTC in reply to "RE: Ill be the odd man out..."
Praxis Member since:

While I agree that class action suits aren't the most optimal solution in the world, until someone figures out a better idea its all we got. And if you read closer it doesn't just bar class action lawsuits, it allows them to bar all lawsuit, and class action arbitration. Leaving people with one on one arbitration as their only legal option to deal with any corp who wishes it.

And I hope you would agree that the precedent this sets about allowing people to sign away fundamental legal rights is horrible. Corporations have all of the bargaining power in these situations. Here is an 50 page agreement of legalese most people barely understand, you can sign it or got f--k yourself. That is the situation most people find themselves in. And is there any reason for a corporation not to stack these agreements in their favor as much as legally possible, which just got a lot bigger. I'm sure Sony would love to have had such an agreement in place right now. As would Apple who is also a target for class actions for its recent privacy violations. There really isn't a company in the world would wouldn't just love to take away your ability to sue it. This is simply the most blatant action I have ever seen to further establish a two tier legal system, normal people have to take their problem to court where everything is a matter of public record. But big corps who can get you to sign a EULA (I'm using the term as a catch all for ginormous take it or leave it contracts here, not just software) get to take you to an arbitration, the terms of which they largely control and they might as well throw some NDAs in their as well. No need for anyone else to know what happens during your private arbitration after all. And if you believe for a single second that these arbitration will be able to stay fair and impartial for long then you are a fool. On one side you have a nobody who you will probably never see again and will probably be barred from ever talking about what occurs here thanks to an NDA, and on the other you have the corporation that will be keeping you in work for the rest of your life. Sure sometimes the little guy will be thrown a small win here and there. People might get suspicious otherwise, but just like in Vegas, in the end the house will always win.

Edited 2011-04-29 17:34 UTC

Reply Score: 3

StephenBeDoper Member since:

WTF do we continue to do this?

I suspect it has more than a little to do with the fact that most politicians were lawyers before they ran for office.

Reply Score: 3

Thom_Holwerda Member since:

I think it has even more to do with dollars.

Reply Score: 1

Some justice.......
by ballmerlikesgoogle on Fri 29th Apr 2011 12:16 UTC
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Sounds like the courts are getting old and tired, lets let the corporations become the judiciary.....

America might as well forget the fact and quit convincing the world it is a republic based on democracy, it is nothing more than an empire that continues a downward spiral.....

Reply Score: 2

Checks And Balances
by Pro-Competition on Fri 29th Apr 2011 15:55 UTC
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I agree that this is an anti-consumer decision, but cases like this are why we have a system of checks and balances.

The proper next step is for Congress to pass a law to make these clauses illegal. Obviously the current Congress will not do this.

The proper response to that is for the people to get angry and make it a point in the next election to force candidates to support pro-consumer rights legislation.

Of course, this will not happen either. Which just demonstrates again that, in a democracy, the people get the government that the majority deserves. It is too easy to fool people with catchy phrases and buzzwords into voting against their own interests (and the common good).

Oh, well.

Reply Score: 4

OVER a few dollars of tax
by jefro on Sat 30th Apr 2011 21:12 UTC
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How f^$^&l sad is this story. The couple were suing ATT over the sales tax on a advertized product? Since when do you see any product with sales taxes included. The whole thing should have never gotten this far. The first court should have told them to complain to their taxing units. The only fault I see is that sales taxes are really a tax burned born more unfairly by the poor.

The concept of laws in America should and do expect that the parties try to resolve issues prior to a legal claim. It is fair that a contract be written to include binding arbitration. You have every right to accept that agreement or go some place else.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by Panajev
by Panajev on Mon 2nd May 2011 13:15 UTC
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I wonder why a lot of countries are passing so many anti-consumer laws just because corporations wave "potential" investment in front of us. The more this happens and the less they improve their competitiveness and the lower their investments are (they end up being seen as a cost which an and should be cut since it does not allow you to make more profit or defend your profits).

Reply Score: 2