Congress is considering legislation to ban arbitration clauses that are mandatory, binding and signed before a problem happens. Those clauses are in nearly every contract you sign and make it impossible for you to sue if you feel you've been mistreated by an employer or company. The News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports Congress is considering a bill that would give employees and consumers who've been done wrong, a choice to either go to arbitration or sue.
Previously, The News On 6 interviewed a lawyer who supports those changes. On Wednesday, we talked to one who is against them. He says arbitration is the fastest, cheapest way to settle disputes.
Kirk Turner represents a lot of businesses including car dealers. He says arbitration clauses are favored by the courts because they save people time and money. One concern Congress has is that the clauses are often hidden in fine print and people donâ€™t know they're signing them.
"Consumers should know they are signing arbitration agreements. We're not saying they shouldn't know. What we are saying is that's a better process than having to spend two or three years in court and pay lots and lots of legal fees,â€ said attorney Kirk Turner.
Turner says the clauses are usually right on the contract and often in a color, like red, so they are easily seen. He says when people sue, there's a risk of a jury basing a decision on emotion rather than fact and you end up with runaway verdicts, like someone who gets $4 million for hot coffee spilled in their lap. He says arbitrators focus on facts.
"Get it in front of person who's got some business experience, who understands the role of consumers and business and can really address the issue and make it relate to the damage that actually occurred,â€ said attorney Kirk Turner.
Turner also sees the lack of an appeal as a plus, he says whoever wins, can get their judgment immediately and not wait years on appeals for it.
As for arbitration being secret, where lawsuits are public, Turner says most cases are settled out of court anyway, which is private.
"So, it's a better process for everybody, except the trial lawyers,â€ said attorney Kirk Turner.
Turner says consumers need to read everything they sign and get copies of everything they sign.
WEB EXTRA: For more information on the "Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007," click here
11/6/2007 Contract Clause You Want To Avoid