Closing the Circle: American Express Company Hits Class Arbitration

Vol. 53 No. 1

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John Jay Range is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Hunton & Williams LLP. His practice involves US and international arbitration of large infrastructure projects. He has arbitrated commercial disputes administered by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the American Arbitration Association (AAA), and JAMS. He has also arbitrated investment disputes administered by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). He is a co-chair of the ABA Section of Public Utility, Communications, and Transportation Law Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee.

The Supreme Court’s recent 5–3 decision in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant1 held that a contractual waiver of class action arbitration is enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA),2 even if the claimant’s cost of arbitrating a federal statutory claim on an individual basis significantly exceeds the maximum possible recovery. American Express is the latest in a series of Supreme Court decisions that have voiced a growing disfavor for the class action mechanism, and have utilized the FAA to restrict access to class arbitration.3 American Express is an important case that has significant implications for parties drafting arbitration clauses where a dispute involving multiple claimants could arise.

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