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Arbitration: Losing Your Day In Court


Deborah L. Pierce an emergency room doctor who brought a sexual discrimination case against the medical group that had dismissed her, was initially confident that she could prove the practice had a history of denying females partnership positions. After all, she was respected by her colleagues, had a stack of positive evaluations, and obtained evidence of the practice’s pattern of discrimination. This all changed when she was forced into private arbitration.

In private arbitration, Pierce’s case was overseen by a corporate lawyer, not a judge. Not only did she see the corporate lawyer having a friendly coffee whit the medical group she was suing, but crucial evidence for her case was withheld from the proceedings as well. To make matters worse, favorable testimony given on behalf of Pierce was reversed because male colleagues had “clarified” the witness’ memory.

Ultimately, Pierce lost her case. However, when the decision was read, it contained passages that had been pulled, word-for-word, from legal briefs prepared by the medical practice. According to Pierce, the experience “took away her faith in a fair and honorable legal system.” Unfortunately, Dr. Pierce is still paying off legal fees for her case.

The experience that Dr. Pierce went through is one that is all too common. If her case been heard in civil court, Dr. Pierce would have had the right to appeal. However, arbitration does little to resemble a court proceeding. This raises important questions about testimony, destruction of evidence, and potential conflicts of interest.

In the last decade, thousands of businesses have used arbitration as a way to create an alternate justice system. This is because arbitration rules tend to favor businesses because judges and juries are replaced. Furthermore, arbitrators typically consider the company to be their client, which places the other party with a distinct disadvantage.

This means that claims of medical malpractice, sexual harassment, hate crimes, discrimination, theft, fraud, elder abuse, and wrongful death, can all be negated if an employee signed an arbitration clause as part of their hiring documents.

Want to learn more about arbitration or arbitration clauses? Call (312) 313-1613, or contact our Chicago consumer law attorneys to find out more information.