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MarketWatch Quotes Professor Richard Frankel on Mandatory Arbitration

Richard Frankel

June 22, 2016

A New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that lets former students sue a for-profit college for fraud may not offer consumers broad protection, Professor Richard Frankel told MarketWatch in a story published June 16.

The court ruled that two former students may pursue a lawsuit alleging that the for-profit Sanford Brown Institute misrepresented its accreditation status and the quality of its medical training programs and career placement services.

The institute sought to have the matter resolved through arbitration, contending that the students signed an agreement to handle disputes privately, as many businesses like telecommunications providers to credit card companies increasingly seek to do in order to avoid costly litigation.

But the NJ Supreme Court found that the contract the students signed did not clearly specify, as required by state law, that they were waiving their right to a judicial forum to resolve any disputes that might arise.

While the court said arbitration clauses must be readable to be enforceable, the ruling left open the possibility that consumers can be required to agree to arbitration in order to receive a product or service.

“If that’s how someone chooses to read it, I don’t know if it will lead to a lot of change,” said Frankel, an authority on arbitration clauses who has published articles on the topic in publications including the the Washington University Law Review.