Florida Supreme Court weighs payday loan class-action suit

May 9, 2012

The Florida Supreme Court is considering whether a group seeking a class-action lawsuit against a check-advance company should be allowed to move forward with the case. Regan McCarthy reports The company argues the individuals signed contracts waiving their rights to class-action suits.

When Wendy Betts received a payday loan from McKenzie Check Advance she signed a contract waiving the right to file a class-action suit. Now she wants to bring a suit against the company, but she can’t find a lawyer willing to take her case individually, meaning her only option is to try for a class action suit, despite the contact she’d signed. Lawyers stand to make a lot more money through class action suits, than through individual cases, which generally are small claims wrapped up in complex issues. Paul Bland is the lawyer representing Betts and other members of a group hoping to sue the company together. Bland, says the waivers banning the class action suit should be thrown out because they’re keeping the people from being able to move forward with a case.

“If this arbitration clause had said, you have to go to Alaska to bring claims, that would be unenforceable. If the arbitration clause had said that the filing fees for the arbitrator would be a million dollars, there’s no doubt that that would be unenforceable.  And  t was a trial court’s finding that there was essentially no reasonable avenue other than a class action.”

But the company’s lawyer Jamie Bianchi  says the issue is not about whether class action suits are good or bad, but about federal policy.

“There’s a federal goal of promoting arbitrations and we’re going to, as a policy the United States is going to follow it.”

And Justice Barbara Pariente says the state court will have to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, whether the justices think it’s right or wrong.

“We’re here with the hand we’re dealt, which is in this case, the U.S. Supreme court and all the decisions after that.”

But, Pariente says she’s not certain the U.S. Supreme Court ruling takes into account whether there are other viable options for citizens blocked from class action suits. The court did not indicate when they expect to rule on the case.