December 17, 2015
On December 14, 2015, the Supreme Court decided DIRECTV v. Imburgia. This case involves a class action lawsuit against DIRECTV by various California customers. Among other things, the agreement between DIRECTV and its customers contained a waiver of any right by either party to undertake class arbitration, unless “the law of your state” made such waivers unenforceable. At that time class arbitration waivers were unenforceable under California law, but in a subsequent case the United States Supreme Court held that this California rule was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Concluding that the parties had intended to apply the rule as it existed prior to the Supreme Court decision, California trial and appellate courts refused to enforce the arbitration provision. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the FAA permitted this outcome; namely, the application of state law that had since been preempted by the FAA.
By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the California Court of Appeals and remanded the case. Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court, holding that the arbitration provision must be enforced because the California appellate court’s interpretation was preempted by the FAA.
Justice Breyer’s opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Kagan. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined.
To discuss the case, we have Cory Andrews, who is Senior Litigation Counsel at the Washington Legal Foundation.