New Amtrak Arbitration Agreement

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by PRR 60, Jan 11, 2019.

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  1. Jan 11, 2019 #1

    PRR 60

    PRR 60

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    Amtrak has posted new Terms and Conditions, the sort of thing that most people just confirm reading with a click and then ignore.  One item included is a new requirement that all disputes with Amtrak be resolved through binding arbitration and not through courts.  I'm not an attorney, so I cannot make any expert comments on the extent of the requirement or its enforceability, but the wording makes it seem pretty all-encompassing and onerous.  It even appears you are, in theory, giving up your right to sue even for personal injury in an accident.

    Here is the Amtrak notice:

    The full text of the Arbitration Agreement can be found HERE.  Would be interested in hearing from anyone who has a better legal handle on these kinds of agreements and what it all means in the real world.
     
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  2. Jan 11, 2019 #2

    Bob Dylan

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    "First we kill all the Lawyers.."  <_<
     
  3. Jan 11, 2019 #3

    Devil's Advocate

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    The legality of forfeiting inalienable rights through forced arbitration is largely settled thanks to multiple 5/4 Supreme Court rulings.
     
  4. Jan 11, 2019 #4

    VTTrain

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    Arbitration really isn’t as evil as people think.  It can be more expensive, since you have to pay the arbitrator.  But a court case can literally take years.

    Sure, arbitration protects against completely insane jury awards.  But I’m fine with that.  Nobody should be getting $60 million for a stubbed toe.
     
  5. Jan 11, 2019 #5

    Devil's Advocate

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    Binding arbitration subverts our core legal system, erodes fundamental protections, removes incentives for responsible behavior, and protects the powerful from the weak.  If you're going bring up jury awards as the reason you support this please include the names of plaintiffs and defendants, dates and locations, and final disposition so the rest of us can review your claims in an objective manner.
     
  6. Jan 11, 2019 #6

    Thirdrail7

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    I'm not saying I'm for or against binding arbitration, particularly in the case of gross negligence. I'm also not keen on the Class Action Waiver. However, this immediately comes to mind:

    98(2/20/14) Delayed Jesup GA-CSX train strikes trespassers-Doctortown
     
  7. Jan 11, 2019 #7

    VTTrain

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    The growing use of arbitration is partly an indictment of America’s courts. Rarely is it in either side’s interests to litigate for years and at great expense.  Arbitration, by contrast, is quick and flexible. It lets both sides choose procedural hoops they would forgo in return for a speedy resolution. A neutral third party then hears the evidence and makes a decision.  Arbitration is not without its flaws, but one thing is clear - it’s not nearly as black and white an issue as you suggest.  Anyone who has spent time doing both knows this.  
     
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  8. Jan 11, 2019 #8

    VTTrain

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  9. Jan 11, 2019 #9

    Thirdrail7

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    Even though this was resolved and it was trespasser, it took 10 years to resolve:

    Voltage turns man atop Acela into conductor

    In this thread, PRR60 reminded us of another incident that lead to a  payout:

    I believe the years of litigation and costs of the process (not necessarily the awards) are the driving force behind this. It will also apply to those that do business  with or are employed by Amtrak.
     
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  10. Jan 11, 2019 #10

    VTTrain

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    Arbitration wouldn’t exist if courts were always the best option.  Years of litigation... What do they say about justice delayed?
     
  11. Jan 11, 2019 #11

    Devil's Advocate

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    I'm confused and I do not understand what this has to do with binding arbitration.  At what point do you envision CSX having entered into a contract with the family of Sarah Jones prior to her death?

    If binding arbitration is a neutrally beneficial proposition as you've implied then it should be offered as an opt-in provision that allows both sides to choose it of their own free will.  The problem comes from allowing business to force consumers and employees into accept binding arbitration whether they want it or not.  That is the problem.

    I never said our legal system is perfect or that it has no faults.  But if something is defective why not endeavor to cure it with a scalpel instead of bludgeon it to death with a sledgehammer?  There is no such thing as the perfect solution, but if we have to suffer some occasional fraud in order to ensure the people at the bottom can sometimes be protected from the people at the top I'm willing to accept that trade off.
     
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  12. Jan 11, 2019 #12

    VTTrain

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    You don’t have to do business with Amtrak.  Nobody is being forced.  
     
  13. Jan 11, 2019 #13

    Thirdrail7

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    I was responding to this:

    I took this as a general statement answering this general statement:

    So, I made a post showing an outrageous jury award and another post, showing how it took 10 years for a case to work its way through the court system...and these were trespassers!

    Now, were you referring to specific, Amtrak jury awards?
     
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  14. Jan 12, 2019 #14

    Devil's Advocate

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    I guess you've already given up on pretending forced arbitration is neutral or beneficial for consumers and employees.  Glad we could get that out of the way and boil your position down to a frivolous technicality.

    Stop and take a deep breath before reading the rest of my reply.  Your example has nothing whatsoever to do with binding arbitration.  There is no contract from which binding arbitration could be enforced.  If you want to talk about tort reform then by all means please start a new thread in which to do so.
     
  15. Jan 12, 2019 #15

    VTTrain

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    Please read what I have actually said and not what you WANT me to have said.  I have not yet offered my opinion on whether or not a mandatory arbitration clause is generally in the consumer’s best interests.  Rather, I have stated that arbitration itself is not as evil as people tend to think - and especially as you appear to think. That’s all.

    Now that we have that clear, I will tell you where I stand on this particular clause.  I want Amtrak to be a viable, healthy company.  If avoiding years of litigation and the wild swings of jury verdicts makes them more viable and healthy, I can live with that.  This is especially true because I would likely choose arbitration over litigation anyway.  So for me, personally, it’s not a big deal.

    You get to make your own choice.  If you don’t like it, then don’t take the train.  If enough consumers feel the way you do Amtrak will have to adjust.  This is how a free market works.
     
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  16. Jan 12, 2019 #16

    Heading North

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    In general I am opposed to mandatory consumer arbitration for a bunch of reasons including that decisions are private and not eligible for appeal. But as far as I know, the airlines all do this in their conditions of carriage, as do lots of other companies including Uber and Lyft, and lots of tech firms. If the courts allow it (which they currently do) and their competitors do it (which they do), from a business perspective one might argue it seems foolish not to.

    It’s up to policymakers to change the laws, and some members of Congress as well as the previous administration have all tried to put limits on arbitration in different contexts, with mixed success. In a different political environment I would not be surprised if this decision attracted heat because public agencies do not get to arbitrate, but a private corporation receiving taxpayer dollars apparently does.
     
  17. Jan 12, 2019 #17

    Thirdrail7

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    Just to find out how confused I am, can everyone just take a peek at this tidbit from Amtrak Pays Millions for Others' Fatal Errors

    Under the new terms, specifically this portion:

    This  award would not qualify for binding arbitration because SHE was not a passenger on the train and not subject to binding arbitration.

    However, if her husband had survived, he would be unable to sue Amtrak, CSX (as host) or any other entity that Amtrak owes indemnity (CSX is covered in two places) even though the host was deemed negligent and their actions "borderline criminal" . He would enter binding arbitration under the terms of agreement and the outcome would be legally binding.

    Is this close or am I still on the tort reform trail??
     
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  18. Jan 12, 2019 #18

    Devil's Advocate

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    I never said that arbitration itself was "evil."  I even indicated that I would have little problem with it if the option was available for passengers to opt in/out as their position and situation dictated.  Your decision to repeatedly reference this emotional buzzword is beginning to look intentionally manipulative.

    Nigeria is how a (mostly) free market works.  American legislators and regulators write more (enforceable) market restrictions in a single year than you could read in a lifetime.  The US hasn't had anything close to a free market in generations.  Therefore the decision is not about whether to have a free or regulated market; it's about who and what should be the beneficiary of our regulations.  One thing I've learned from all my years of riding the rails and reading our forum is that many people depend on Amtrak as their primary means of travel.  The reasons for this vary it's not always as simple and easy as choosing another option.  In my view Amtrak's primary liability is the massive network imbalance that puts them at a severe disadvantage with regard to reciprocal indemnity agreements.  This is an issue that has little if any chance of being materially impacted by forcing arbitration on Amtrak's passengers.
     
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  19. Jan 12, 2019 #19

    VTTrain

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    The overwhelming majority of Amtrak passengers have a choice.  

    That said, we will just have to agree to disagree on the underlying issue.  I have neither the time nor the energy to rebut what I could - starting with your pedantic discussion of a free market when you clearly understood the point I was making.  (That the government does not, by fiat, force individual consumers to ride on Amtrak.)

    If and when you are ready to dispense with the pedantry I’m happy to pick the discussion back up.
     
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  20. Jan 12, 2019 #20

    Cho Cho Charlie

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    What bothers me most is that the person running the arbitration (the "judge"), its their job.   The have a great financial incentive to make a finding that will result in getting hired to do another case in the near future.   That means they would lean towards the "big guy" since the "little guy" will probably never have the need to re-hire the adjudicator again.
     
  21. Jan 12, 2019 #21

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Yes how do you go about getting a impartial arbitration.  Lawyers file cases in a certain courthouse try to get favorably judges.  How do you get fair arbitrator?
     
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  22. Jan 12, 2019 #22

    VTTrain

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    It’s definitely a challenge.  Frankly, it’s my only hesitation with arbitration.  You really have to do your homework.   
     
  23. Jan 13, 2019 #23

    SP&S

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    Bingo!  You got it.!
     
  24. Jan 14, 2019 #24

    ehbowen

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    I have nothing against parties who voluntarily and mutually opt for arbitration. But I believe that any mandatory arbitration provision, or anything like the "shrink wrap" legal agreements found on software and in the fine print on web sites, violates the implicit requirement for fair dealing in any contract, which cannot be waived by any party.
     
  25. Jan 14, 2019 #25

    rspenmoll

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    Is Amtrak covered under the Federal Tort Claims Act as a Federal Government owned enterprise? If so, that arbitration agreement would presumably only pertain to torts that are not covered under the Act.
     

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