Richard Frankel


States have long relied on the doctrines of unconscionability and public policy to protect individuals against unfair terms in mandatory arbitration provisions. The Supreme Court recently struck a blow to such efforts in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion and American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant. In those two cases, the Court established that a challenge to the enforceability of unfairly one-sided arbitration clauses is preempted if it would interfere with "fundamental attributes of arbitration." Several commentators have argued that these decisions will dramatically alter the arbitration landscape, by wiping away virtually any contract defense to the validity of an arbitration agreement and giving corporations carte blanche to impose whatever terms they want into an arbitration clause. Many practitioners are aggressively pushing courts to take a similarly broad reading of Concepcion and Italian Colors. This article takes a contrary view. First, this article argues that the cases will have very little impact outside of the context of class action waivers, the subject matter of both Concepcion and Italian Colors. Applying state law to strike down arbitration provisions that are so one-sided as to be unconscionable ordinarily will not interfere with "fundamental attributes of arbitration" and should not be preempted.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.