Thursday, December 26, 2013

Scott v. Cingular Wireless case brief

Scott v. Cingular Wireless case brief summary
160 Wash.2d 843 (2007)

Petitioner customers challenged a decision from a trial court in Washington, which entered an order compelling individual arbitration of a billing dispute involving respondent cellular telephone company.

The customers contended that the company overcharged them. After an action was filed, the company sought to compel individual arbitration based on a contract clause. The trial court granted the company's motion, and this appeal followed.


  • In reversing, the supreme court held that a class action waiver clause was an unconscionable violation of Washington's policy to protect the public and foster fair and honest competition in Wash. Rev. Code § 19.86.920 because it drastically forestalled attempts to vindicate consumer rights. 
  • To the extent that this clause prevented cases under the Washington Consumer Protection Act, Wash. Rev. Code ch. 19.86, it was substantively unconscionable. 
  • Because the clause barred any class action, in arbitration or without, it functioned to exculpate the drafter from liability for a broad range of undefined wrongful conduct, including potentially intentional wrongful conduct. 
  • The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C.S. §§ 1-16, did not preempt Washington law in this case. 
  • Finally, since class action waiver stated that the entire clause was null and void if it was unenforceable, there remained no basis to compel arbitration.
The decision was reversed, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

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