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New Ally in Arbitration Disputes: Small Businesses

In a recent post, we discussed the misguided advocacy role taken by the U.S. Chamber in Commerce on a wide range of issues affecting everyday Americans and consumers. Sadly, the entity has used its position and influence in recent years to push legislation that would do nothing more than protect big businesses at the expense of everyone else.

There are many different legal issues that the Chamber involves itself, but one of the most recent actually may have an impact on a nursing home neglect issue.

Arbitration Agreements
Mandatory arbitration agreements have long-been an issue when it comes to demanding full accountability following mistreatment in a long-term care facility. These agreements are snuck into the mounds of paperwork that residents and their families are forced to sign upon admission–often resulting an inability to seek access to a courtroom if mistreatment occurs down the road.

Nursing home resident advocates have long worked to get these agreements thrown out and require that parties only enter arbitration when they mutually agree to do so and are effectively forced to do so.

It should not be forgotten that the same arguments against mandatory arbitration arise in many different situations, usually placing one party at a clear disadvantage to the others.

Chamber Takes Sides
One recent case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with two important issues, arbitration agreements and class action lawsuits. Interestingly, this case pitted a large corporation–American Express–against a group of small businesses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce always publicly purports to represents the interests of small businesses. Yet, what does the Chamber do in situations like this one, where a large, powerful company is striving to press its interests at the disadvantage of small business? Does the Chamber ignore it? Stay quiet? Support the small business which it purports to prioritize?


Perhaps we should be surprised that the Chamber decided to step and and work for American Express against the interests of the small business.

The American Bar Association points to an amicus brief in the case (American Express v. Italian Colors) filed by the U.S. Chamber which defended the big company against the small business. View brief here.

Sadly, last week the Supreme Court released a 5-4 decision in the case which the Court ruled against small businesses, essentially allowing bigger companies to force arbitration, making it next to impossible to demand full accountability. That is because the issue is a unique one involving antitrust rules, where individuals businesses would be required to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars without the hope of substantial recovery. The only way to ensure accountability is to pursue a class action, with many small businesses banding together to ensure fairness. But, because the arbitration clauses are being enforced, class action isn’t an option. In short, American Express has created a virtual immunity for itself, even though it may be violating the law.

It is a sad day for small business taken advantage of by big corporations. Far from standing on the side of the hundreds of thousands of small business in the dispute, the Chamber fought against them.

The injury attorneys at our firm are proud to protect the interests of all consumer and others in protecting their legal rights. Unlike the U.S. Chamber we stand on the side of those without deep lobbying pockets and billion-dollar businesses.

See Other Posts:

Supreme Court Mandates Arbitration in Nursing Home Death Case

Arbitration Act of 2013 Introduced in Congress