April 09, 2019 Top Story

Contract Trumps Presumption That Court Decides Arbitrability

Supreme Court expected to clarify arbitrability questions in class actions

By Peter J. Murphy

In JPay, Inc. v. Kobel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit joined several other circuits in holding that the availability of class action arbitration is a “question of arbitrability” that is decided by a court, not an arbitrator.

JPay is a company that allows friends and family of prison inmates around the country to purchase various goods and services on inmates’ behalves

JPay is a company that allows friends and family of prison inmates around the country to purchase various goods and services on inmates’ behalves

iStockphoto by Getty Images

The parties’ contract did not specifically mention class arbitration. Nevertheless, the court concluded that the contract’s general terms clearly and unambiguously required that the question be decided by an arbitrator instead of the court. ABA Section of Litigation leaders note that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to provide further guidance on the availability of class arbitration this term.

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