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Arbitration Denied Where Class Members Signed Arbitration Agreement, But Plaintiff Did Not

When a plaintiff files a class action, and the defendant moves to compel arbitration based upon the fact that other members of the putative class signed arbitration agreements, can the trial court compel arbitration of the entire class action? In Lee v. Southern California University for Professional Studies, the 4th District Court of Appeal said "no." Patricia Lee sued the Southern California University for Professional Studies for violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (Civil Code § 1750 et seq.) and Business and Professions Code § 17200. Because some of the potential class members — not including Lee — signed a contract including an arbitration clause, the defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration, which the trial court denied.

On appeal, the trial court's order was affirmed. The Court of Appeal found that no grounds exist for compelling arbitration when the only plaintiff currently before the court never agreed to arbitrate her claims. However, the obvious next question — whether she is an adequate class representative for those who did — remains to be decided by the trial court at such time when Lee moves to certify the class. Thus, the more interesting opinion is yet to come.

A petition to decertify the case was recently filed. For now, you can download Lee here in pdf or Word format.

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