U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Individualized Arbitration Where Agreement Is Ambiguous on Issue of Class Arbitration

In a 2010 decision, Stolt-Nielsen S. A. v. Animalfeeds International Corp., the United States Supreme Court held that parties may not be compelled to submit to class arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) unless there is a contractual basis for concluding that they agreed to do so. The Court held that such an agreement could not be presumed from the fact that the arbitration agreement is “silent” on the issue of class arbitration or the mere fact that the parties agreed to arbitrate. Nine years later (nearly to the day), on April 24, 2019, the Supreme Court in Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela reaffirmed and extended its holding in Stolt-Nielsen and held that even an arbitration agreement that is ambiguous as to whether class arbitration is permitted was insufficient to provide the “necessary ‘contractual basis’ for compelling classwide arbitration.” The case arises out of a 2016 data breach of Lamps Plus, where the tax information of…

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