Big business can get into court — individuals are forced into arbitration
The public courts were available to Beef Products Inc (BPI) to sue ABC News for defamation — even the court in a tiny South Dakota town.
Reports are that the South Dakota county where the case was filed spent $45,000 preparing a courtroom for the so-called “lean finely textured beef” defamation trial. That’s nice. It is not so nice that the legal system is not as accessible to an individual with a beef against a big business. Individuals with disputes against businesses are increasingly forced into arbitration — which means disputes will be decided behind closed doors usually by someone with connections to the business. No federal or state court judge, no jury of one’s peers, no appellate review, no public access for media and court watchers.
Think this does not matter to you? Check your brokerage statement. Brokers require that you “agree” to mandatory arbitration if you want to open an IRA or other brokerage account. Check your internet and phone bills. Internet and telecommunication service providers require that you “agree” to mandatory arbitration if you want those services. Check your credit cards. Credit card companies require that you “agree” to mandatory arbitration if you want to use a credit card.
If businesses can bring their disputes in the public court system, shouldn’t individuals be able to do the same?