Injury Law - Missouri and Illinois - Mandatory Arbitration in Injury Cases? An Attempt to Deny Victims their Constitutional Right to a Trial by Jury

In Missouri the 2005 tort reform has severely limited the rights of victims of personal injury as the result of the negligence of someone else, and apparently that devastation to the legal justice system is not enough. Additionally, Illinois personal injury rights are under attack daily as well. The new trend is now to push for mandatory arbitration, particularly in medical malpractice cases under the guise of “Health Courts”. This is essentially mandatory arbitration, taking away your right to a trial by jury. Voluntary arbitration is acceptable and very useful in our legal system in all types of cases including personal injury cases; however, it has be to be in case where arbitration is likely to produce a fair result and both parties want to forego the time and expense of a jury trial.

Recently, the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007 was introduced in an attempt to curtail this unfair trend. With the understanding that mandatory arbitration prevents victims of personal injury and their families from having a fair opportunity to justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others. More and more, corporations are using mandatory arbitration clauses to weaken the basic legal protections the constitution provides and further stack the deck against individuals who are forced to fight Goliath. Voluntary arbitration is an effective method to resolve disputes efficiently, but, unsuspecting consumers must not be forced into it through the fine and small print hidden on the back pages of an agreement.

Many injury victim advocates, such as AAJ, support strong consumer protection laws to keep the playing field level so that individuals can access justice and wrongdoers can be held accountable.


Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007

The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007 – introduced by Senator Feingold (D- WI) – and Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) would prohibit the use of pre-dispute arbitration in consumer, employment and franchise agreements.

The legislation would not prohibit arbitration, but guarantee that the decision to arbitrate is really a voluntary one and that the rights provided for by the judicial system are not waived under coercion or without knowledge. Under the proposed bill, pre-dispute mandatory arbitration would be allowed to continue in most business-to-business agreements.