Mandatory arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of consumer finance, employment, cell phone, credit card, retirement account, and nursing home contracts. Just by taking a loan, a job or buying a product or service, consumers without warning are forced to give up their right to go to court if they are injured by a company. Because the private system of forced arbitration benefits companies - and disadvantages consumers and employees - more and more industries are flocking to forced arbitration to evade accountability. In arbitration, there is no publicly accountable judge, jury, or right to an appeal. The arbitrators are not made to follow the facts or the law, and there is no public review of decisions to ensure the arbitrator got it right. Moreover, contracts typically name the arbitration firm that must be employed. That arbitration firm is typically one preferred by the company. These arbitrators have an incentive to favor the company, as they want to continue to be given repeat business by them. Most importantly for corporate America, arbitration is now being used to legitimized broad class action arbitration waivers in all types of consumer agreements, including consumer finance contracts. The practical effect is that companies now use forced arbitration clauses to eliminate the ability of consumers to band together, which is often the only means for consumers to vindicate their rights. "The federal law that governs arbitration has been interpreted to the point where it has warped all sense of fairness or justice, and has given corporations a get-out-of-jail-free card," said Christine Hines, consumer and civil justice counsel at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. "The mere existence of a forced arbitration clause and class-action ban in a contract can squash thousands of valid consumer claims and shield companies from being held liable for their misconduct."
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You won't believe what happened to me this morning. I have to tattle on myself in order to tell this story but it's so worth it! I was feeling pretty stressed this morning, so I decided to go through McDonald's and get an Egg McMuffin (I'm doing Weight Watcher's - that's where the tattling comes in) on my way into work. However, that's not all I have to confess. Today, Egg McMuffins were two for $3.00 so, of course, I got two. When I got up to the window to pay, the McDonald's employee told me that the vehicle in front of me paid for my Egg McMuffins. I was shocked, and asked the employee if I knew the woman who had paid for my breakfast. The girl said she didn't know whether we knew each other, she just knew that the woman paid for my Egg McMuffins!
I've been a big fan of the Olympics for as long as I can remember. I especially enjoy the winter games. I don't really know why. I can't ski, skate, or do anything else remotely athletic on snow or ice. I'm lucky to keep myself from falling. And maybe that's the point: I enjoy watching these Olympic athletics excel in areas where I struggle to simply stand or walk. I was watching the figure skating competition a few days ago. Jeremy Abbott, 28, the US skating champion, was attempting a "quad" jump when he fell--really, really hard. In fact, he slammed into the wall and lay still for several seconds clutching his side. The music continued to play in the background, but Jeremy lay perfectly still. Then slowly, painfully he stood up. And as he did, the crowd roared its encouragement. With a look of determination, Jeremy made his way back onto the ice, caught up with the music and completed his performance, hitting every trick. The ovation at the end of his skating was thunderous.
At Bordas & Bordas, where I've been a lawyer for going on fifteen years now, we hear about a lot of legal cases. Because of the reputation Jim and Linda Bordas have built up for decades, we get the privilege of hearing about hundreds and even thousands of different potential legal cases from people who feel they've been wronged. And I mean it when I say "privilege." It isn't easy for anyone to talk about what may be one of the worst things that has happened to them in their lives. But that is how most every case begins. Still, of the many folks who get in touch, only a small percentage of those cases get "taken." And while we do our best to explain our thinking to each person we talk to, we don't get to talk to everyone. I often meet people who once they find out I'm a lawyer, immediately want to tell me about the case they had that no lawyer would take. If you've ever been in that spot: this one's for you.
As you may have heard, the SEC defensive player of the year, Michael Sam, recently announced that he is gay. No big deal I thought, it's 2014, and generally speaking as a nation I feel we are slowly but surely moving in the right direction concerning basic civil rights for all of our citizens. By the end of the day, I realized I had made a huge error in judgment. The only stories that followed were about how the NFL would deal with this distraction, whether his announcement would hurt his draft stock, the impossible locker room environment that people believed would follow and so on and so forth. I read nothing about social progress, and saw nothing even resembling support from the NFL camp. One "unnamed" scout (read: coward) said that many of the scouts already knew Michael Sam was gay because scouts often spy on prospective NFL draftees. He then went on to explain how he graded Sam as having "character issues" as a result of his homosexuality.
A gas explosion has kept families out of their own neighborhood for a week. While the line in the neighborhood did not run to homes, it did run down the street and when a leak caused an explosion, a severely burned man was fortunate enough to be aided by his neighbor.
A few weeks ago I received an invitation from WVU to sing the National Anthem at this Saturday's basketball game against Baylor. It is really an incredible honor for me to have been asked twice to perform for the Old Gold and Blue. A close musician friend told me anyone can be asked to do something once, but it's when they ask you back that you know you're onto something. I was first asked to sing the Anthem two years ago for the Big East opener against Villanova (a Mountaineer victory, too, I might add). My family was more nervous than I. My wife was nauseated, my dad practically cried, my mother nearly had a heart attack, and my kids simply asked if it was time to go to the concession stand. But they all had legitimate reasons for concern. After all, I have no formal training, can't read music, and don't know anything about keys, pitch or harmonies. And there is arguably no tougher performance than standing in the middle of 10,000+ people who are completely silent with their full attention fixed on you singing THE song that forms the very fabric of our national identity. And, for me, therein lies the challenge - the thrill and the reason I'm willing to subject myself to such scrutiny. It was an exhilarating experience last time, and while I don't expect my kids' behavior to be any different this time around, I do hope it's a little easier on everyone else.
By now, most of you have heard about the horrific natural gas well fire and explosion that occurred during the early hours of February 11 th in Dunkard, Pennsylvania. This well fire burned for days, but eventually extinguished itself on Saturday. Unfortunately, the aftermath of this accident gas left one worker injured and recently identified employee, Ian McKee, missing and feared to be dead. Gas well site injuries caused by negligence have become more and more common. For Chevron, a titan in the natural gas business, this is a public relations nightmare. How does a corporation begin to do damage control in a situation like this? Well, obviously, not using the method that Chevron chose. It has been reported that on February 16 th the Chevron Community Outreach Team delivered letters to one hundred homes residing around the explosion. In the correspondence provided to these families, Chevron states: "Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community. We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors and the environment." And what action did they take to safeguard their neighbors? Chevron included with their letter a coupon for a free large combo pizza and a 2-liter beverage from Bobtown Pizza.
Tens of millions of Americans, including over 60% of lower-income Earned Income Tax Credit recipients, use paid tax preparers. Yet nearly all states have more regulatory requirements for hairdressers than for tax preparers. Certified public accountants, tax lawyers, enrolled agents credentialed by the IRS, and certain unpaid volunteers are the only tax preparers subject to testing and regulatory oversight. The lack of oversight has led to widespread and endemic problem across the industry. Mystery shopper testing done by the government agencies and consumer advocacy groups over the last several years has revealed a large number of errors, fraud, and other abuses . In addition, high and inflated tax preparation fees of up to $500 for simple returns were documented by mystery shoppers. Accordingly, Bordas & Bordas recommends consumers consider a local certified public accountant as opposed to large tax preparation chains. Often, a more qualified CPA can prepare your return for a similar or even lower price.
Tune in to the Bordas & Bordas Legal Review on West Liberty Television to receive top-flight analysis of the intersection between the legal world, sports and the culture at large. This week, Jamie Bordas and Chris Regan discuss the attempt by Northwestern College football players to form a union and collectively bargain for fair treatment from the university and the NCAA. In the show's second segment, Jamie and Chris discuss Michael Sam, the Missouri linebacker, who is seeking to be the first openly-gay player drafted into the National Football League.