AT&T Mobility and the Future of Small Claims Arbitration

Jill Gross

Pace Law School

June 1, 2012

Southwestern University Law Review, Vol. 41, 2012

Small claims arbitration has not received much attention from dispute system designers and scholars. Several coalescing developments require a reassessment of the small claims arbitration process: (1) the Supreme Court’s strong endorsement of the Federal Arbitration Act and arbitration as a favored dispute resolution mechanism, (2) the proliferation of pre-dispute arbitration clauses in consumer products and services agreements, (3) the judicialization of arbitration, and (4) most recently, the Court’s condemnation, in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which held that the FAA preempts a California rule that declared class arbitration waivers in consumer contracts unconscionable, of class arbitration as a procedural device to resolve aggregable yet arbitrable low dollar value claims. The article describes the primary features of the two options remaining for the Concepcions – small claims court and small claims arbitration, as well as their perceived advantages and disadvantages. The article also examines whether simplified arbitration is a fair method of resolving small arbitration claims, and explores other dispute resolution models for resolving small dollar value commercial disputes, including on-line dispute resolution, telephonic arbitration and a small claims arbitrator. The article concludes by urging dispute system designers to consider changing the default mechanism of arbitrating small claims cases from paper or “desk” arbitration to a live hearing before a small claims arbitrator.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

Keywords: arbitration, small claims, dispute resolution, dispute system design

JEL Classification: K40

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Date posted: July 19, 2012 ; Last revised: December 12, 2012

Suggested Citation

Gross, Jill, AT&T Mobility and the Future of Small Claims Arbitration (June 1, 2012). Southwestern University Law Review, Vol. 41, 2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2112261

Contact Information

Jill Gross (Contact Author)
Pace Law School ( email )
78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States
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