Motion to Compel Arbitration Class Action

In Discover Bank v. Superior Court (2005) 36 Cal.4th 148, the defendant bank sought to compel arbitration of the plaintiff's contract and statutory claims on an individual basis and to dismiss class claims pursuant to a class action waiver in the parties' arbitration agreement. (Id. at p. 154.) The California Supreme Court explained that "some class action waivers in consumer contracts are unconscionable under California law." (Id. at p. 160.) Among other reasons, the court stated that class action waivers "are indisputably one-sided" because "'credit card companies typically do not sue their customers in class action lawsuits.'" (Id. at p. 161.) The California Supreme Court ultimately determined that "when the waiver is found in a consumer contract of adhesion in a setting in which disputes between the contracting parties predictably involve small amounts of damages, and when it is alleged that the party with the superior bargaining power has carried out a scheme to deliberately cheat large numbers of consumers out of individually small sums of money, then, at least to the extent the obligation at issue is governed by California law, the waiver becomes in practice the exemption of the party 'from responsibility for its own fraud, or willful injury to the person or property of another.' (Civ. Code, 1668.) Under these circumstances, such waivers are unconscionable under California law and should not be enforced." (Id. at pp. 162-163.) The California Supreme Court further held that "the FAA does not prohibit a California court from refusing to enforce a class action waiver that is unconscionable." (Id. at p. 173.) However, in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011) 563 U.S. 333 the United States Supreme Court held that the FAA "preempts California's unconscionability rule prohibiting class waivers in consumer arbitration agreements," thereby abrogating Discover Bank. (Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Co., LLC (2015) 61 Cal.4th 899 at p. 906; see id. at p. 923.) According to Concepcion, "requiring the availability of classwide arbitration interferes with fundamental attributes of arbitration and thus creates a scheme inconsistent with the FAA." (Concepcion, supra, 563 U.S. at p. 344.) In particular, "class arbitration sacrifices the principal advantage of arbitration--its informality--and makes the process slower, more costly, and more likely to generate procedural morass than final judgment." (Id. at p. 348.) Also, "class arbitration greatly increases risks to defendants" and "is poorly suited to the higher stakes of class litigation" because of the lack of judicial review, "thus rendering arbitration unattractive" to defendants. (Id. at pp. 350, 351, fn. 8.) The California Supreme Court in Sanchez, addressing an identical class waiver as the one in the instant case, concluded that "to find the class waiver here unconscionable would run afoul of Concepcion." (Sanchez, supra, at p. 923.)