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Supreme Court blocks class-action claim against American Express

Visitors wait outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Thursday.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court blocked restaurant owners from suing American Express over high fees Thursday, the latest in a series of 5-4 rulings have barred class-action claims against big corporations.

The majority agreed individual restaurant owners could not afford the nearly $1 million cost of bringing an antitrust claim against Amex. But they ruled that an arbitration clause prevents the restaurant owners from joining together to sue.

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“The antitrust laws do not guarantee an affordable path to the vindication of every claim,” said Justice Antonin Scalia.

The ruling is the third in three years that closes the courthouse door to class-action claims brought by employees, consumers and now small businesses.

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Paul Bland, an attorney for Public Justice, called the decisions “catastrophic for the antitrust laws, as well as for civil rights and consumer rights.” He said that many small claims can only be resolved through a class-action suit.

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But Washington attorney Andrew Pincus welcomed the ruling. It may crimp “the huge legal fees” won by plaintiffs lawyers, but it preserves “fair, efficient arbitration systems that increase access to justice for consumers.”

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david.savage@latimes.com


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