Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly in its May 18 issue featured a Superior Court judge’s denial of a salesman’s request for class action arbitration against his former auto dealership employer, represented by Nicholas B. Carter and Christian G. Kiely of the firm.
In the absence of binding precedent, the ruling could have widespread ramifications in Massachusetts on the question of the arbitrability of class action claims.
Judge Rosemary Connolly held that the arbitration agreement between the former salesman and the firm’s client compels a single claim proceeding, absent an express, unequivocal authorization of a class arbitration.
Ambiguity in an arbitration agreement is not enough, the judge found, because a class arbitration fundamentally alters the underlying dispute.
“Where an agreement is either silent, or is ambiguous, on the availability of class arbitration, the court cannot compel such arbitration,” the judge wrote in her 13-page decision.
Mr. Carter told the publication that the ruling helps employers argue for individual arbitrations as long as there is an arbitration agreement that does not expressly permit class arbitration.
“An employer is very interested in that outcome, and plaintiffs’ attorneys presumably would be interested in knowing this analysis before embarking on litigation,” he said.
Mr. Carter, a partner at the firm, is a veteran trial attorney with a strong record of litigation success in a wide array of matters, including complex business disputes, employment discrimination claims, elder exploitation and financial fraud claims, and real estate disputes.
Mr. Kiely concentrates his practice on business litigation, representing companies and individuals in a wide range of disputes, as well as matters involving employment law.