tv America Tonight Al Jazeera February 28, 2016 9:30pm-10:01pm EST
>> what do we want? >> justice. >> when do we want it? >> now. >> explosions going on... we're not quite sure - >> is that an i.e.d.? good evening from los angeles, welcome to a special edition ever muslim brotherhood. i'm michael oku. thing about your life for a second. do you own a home, car, cell phone. do you go to the doctor, dentist or doub load music on -- download music on itunes. chances are you have signed away a fundamental right. the right to have your way in court. it's called arbitration, for the past six months we talked to
dozens of experts and combed through thousands of cases to see how arbitration affects you. you may find the results surprising, if not shocking. >> everywhere you have to sign these agreements. >> you're going to sign it. >> arbitration is the name of the game. >> reporter: tens of millions of consumers are players in the game. the opponent sets the ground rules and picks the referees, few of us know it exists. arbitration. >> for the vast majority, corporations but arbitration in the fine clause. what it says is if they break the law, you can't go court or have a jury or a right, you'll go to a private system that they set up essentially, and there'll be a private judge who will be depicted by a company they pick.
whatever the private judge does, you can't appeal to court in virtually any circumstance, and the whole situation is mostly secretive. that forced arbitration. >> you probably agreed to arbitration dozens of times, it's there in the fine print. how easy is it to read the specific clauses? >> the vast majority of clauses are written with the idea of making it impossible. i had a case against a pay day lender. the first sentence of the clause was 256 words, and it's something like 28 different pieces of punctuation in it. >> reporter: the first sentence. >> the first sentence. >> reporter: homes, cars, loans, credit carts - just about everything comes with an arbitration agreement. >> there are cemeteries requiring you to sign an arbitration clause before taking loved one's remains to them, or before they'll handle one. there's pet places, vast
majority of nursing homes will not take a patient in unless there's an arbitration clause that is sign the. there are clauses for nearly any new home that is purchased. a lot of people who repair homes are required to have an arbitration clause. if you buy a new car, virtually saul new car purchases have an them. >> reporter: i'm exhausted listening to you. you mentioned basically anything i might be your day in court, your ability to take your claim and have it decided by a fair judge, or by an impartial jury. you give that up. >> reporter: when congress
passed the federal arbitration act in 1925 it was supposed to settle disputes between large companies and was intended to be voluntary. and it was, until the 1980s. when a series of court decisions paved the way for arbitration to be used with consumers. recent supreme court decisions only strengthened arbitration's reach. now, cases that would have gone to open court are increasingly heading out of the public eye and into conference rooms. and few know about it. >> i don't know what forced arbitration is. >> mike agreed to it when he signed paperwork working at carr max. >> for employment it's forced. you are obligated. if you don't sign it, you don't get the job. i need a job. i had to sign it. >> reporter: it wasn't an issue until he was fired. >> i reported through email
which is customary, that we had issues with cars' safety. soon after i was terminated. my friend told me it's not fair, it's not right and you should sue them. >> reporter: that's when he learnt what he'd given up. >> i signed my rights away, and i experienced it as unimaginable. carr max denied wrongfully terminating sanchez. >> i think what is not unusual about your story is the fact that he discovered he was stuck with arbitration, couldn't go to court, and is probably stuck with an arbitration system favouring his employer over him. >> liz is an employment law professor at harvard. corporations are now regularly saying to prospective employees, if you want a job, you have to
wave your right to go to court. for any civil rights violation or any violation of law. >> if i was an employee, and my boss passed me up for promotion and openly said to me "i don't like the fact you are married to an immigrant", i couldn't take it to court because i arbitration agreement. >> absolutely. if you signed an arbitration
agreement. but do they do as as well in arbitration as court. >> a study found employees lost 20% of arbitration, and public citizen found credit card users lost 94% of the time. >> would you say this system is skewed in favour of corporations against consumers? >> it's skewed in favour of corporations, both against consumers and employees. >> she speaks from experience, she used to be an arbitrator.
qualms. >> how many times would you do that? >> roughly a dozen, and came a case where it seemed the consumer was right. i ruled for the consumer, and ordered that the bank had to turn over some money, and after that i found myself in every single case until i resigned disqualified from arbitrating. so i was disqualified by the banks in every single case that came before me after that. >> reporter: what exactly was this, do you think it was retribution or they did not want you to try their >>. >> i think they expected their arbitrators to rule consistently for them, and when they found an arbitrator that was willing to consider the other side, they disqualified that arbitrator. >> you don't have to tell them twice that too many verdict in favour of the plaintiff were -
or too high would mean a drop in your income. >> reporter: lawyers say arbitrators can make $900 during an hour. >> when you think about this. if you work 25 hours a week, you are talking $1 million a year. >> some arbitrators earn that much working 25-26 hours a week. it's a source of engine that is only human to want to preserve. that's where the so-called repeat player effect comes into play. arbitrators rule favourably for a frequently sued defendant in hopes for a return business. >> there was a case a number of years ago, which was a case of a baby injured and labour and delivery. where we were pretty certain that a baby who was badly injured deserved to be extented. and during the course of deliberation told the arbitrator, the baby gets
$6 million now for future care over his life-time or i can earn that as an arbitrator for the next 10 years. both can't happen. the arbitrator ruled in favour of the company. the baby lost. >> it's a relatively lawless regime. if you assume that the arbitrators are not biased or fair. if they are ignorant. if they get the law wrong, it doesn't matter. because it can't be appealed. >> what are we risking in all of this? >> we are risking our justice system. we are risking a system that is designed to provide even-handed justice. that has its flaws. it's too expensive. it takes too long, but it is designed to provide unbiased, even-handed justice. that's what we are risking.
>> to find out how fair the system is, we look at 10 years medical malpractice in california, nearly 1600 cases. research shows that you were twice as likely to win in front of a judge than an arbitrator. >> we focused on california. it's one of a few states where ash stlags firms are required to publish basic data about the cases that they handle. information like who filed the case, what it was about, what if any award was granted. we looked at 20 firms and discovered four were actually complying with the law. it. >> information that is required by law to be public is missing. in 2013. we ask the top law enforcer what she planned to do about it. her office had no comment.
it's the sobering reality. or secrecy, which keeps important information hidden from the public. >> if you want to put your mum in a nursing home or dad in a nursing home you'll not know how many times they'll be sued. if you are in los angeles county, you can go to the courthouse, and go online and you type in the name of the nursing home. and you can see all the times they were sued. you can get the documents, it's all public, you can see what happens. and arbitration - slen coming up, losers can pay dearly in arbitration. >> i sat there and i couldn't talk. i didn't know what i was going to do.
in 2008 arizona resident katy was drying to jump start a career in the medical field. >> i went and looked online in phoenix where i was living at the time for a school that taught surgical tech programs, at which time i found lamson. >> reporter: she learnt her $25,000 diploma wouldn't get her the job she wanted. >> i was told i couldn't get a job, and another student i kept in contact with told me that he was advised that an administrator at a surgical center told him that they would never higher a student at their surgical center because of the received. >> reporter: feeling they'd been defrauded she and others wanted
to sue the college to get their money back. >> i contacted the lawyer, and he said that yes, they were going through with a class action suit, and once i signed the paperwork for the lawyer, then that is when i found out about the arbitration. >> lamson included an paperworkism. >> i had no idea what arbitration was. arbitration didn't mean anything do me. >> reporter: she learnt instead of a judge or jury, the case would be decided by an arbitrator, who ruled against her. ordering her to pay legal bills. >> not only did we lose 400,000. >> this is a terrible injustice. senator dick durban has a bill pending banning arbitration colleges.
>> it's reasonable to believe that had she had her day in case. >> this was classic deception and fraud. and to think that she didn't win in the arbitration tells her that the odds are against her. once they set up arbitrations, you don't have a chance. >> reporter: she didn't win the ash tlags, and she -- arbitration, and the she and the other plaintiffs are on the hook for $400,000 to pay legal fees, is that fair. >> that's an outrage. >> with a debt to pay for an education i can't use. position. >> i don't have a future in the job i have now, because the diploma is not worth anything. >> lamson couldn't be reached. some scales are going beyond the arbitration agreement by banning class actions, allowing people to sue as a group. >> think about this.
students individually cannot go to court and sue the university of phoenix. caplin, itt. they'll not have the wherewithal. if they are not careful. if they are in a mandatory arbitration clause and lose the education, they may be charged with attorney fees for questioning the policies. >> nearly every arbitration clause says that a consumer, worker, whatever, is not allowed to bring or join in a class action lawsuit. they require you, if you have a dispute against them. you have to bring it and prove it by yourself. >> it's a get out of gaol free card for companies. >> they make it impossible to go after companies even if it breaks the law. >> they were at one time a noble means to right a wrong.
class action lawsuits have become, in many cases, lawyer-driven lawsuits about the olive enough... >> kim lobbies in favour of arbitration as an alternative to class action. >> class action lawsuits is where the lawyers get millions, and we get let's money. >> as far as individuals are concerned. it's the one way that the every day consumer can hold big corporations accountable. >> i'm a member - i'm an every day consumer, and you are too, and viewers are too. every time i received a postcard about products i bought, that i'm a member of the a class, i don't want to sue the company. i don't feel my rights are vindicated because a lawyer is
getting 2.5 million, and i'm a him. >> trial lawyers may not be getting as much of the pie as people think. a 2015 report on arbitration and class actions by the consumer protection bureau found attorneys took 18%, less than a third of settlement money. consumers collected $2 billion from 424 class action settlements. they got less than 175,000 among a thousands file. >> even though companies sign up millions, they rarp use it. take team mobile. it has 63 million consumers. it faced 44 arbitrations and comcast, with 27 million customers faced 23. an arbitration is not always a
2-way street. >> you sign away your right to a jury trial. if you don't pay your rent. they can take you to court. >> i didn't believe that somebody could take my right away and keep their rights at the same time. many times they dictate who has to arbitrate it, the rules, which rules will apply. they may say the state of california plies, the state of kentucky plies or wherever or, in the case of the cruise ship industry, malta. despite a federal law guaranteeing injured ship workers the right to sue. they can be ordered to arbitrations halfway around the world. there are arbitration clauses that people sign that on their face say that the arbitrator doesn't have to fomo the laws -- follow the laws of united states. why is there no public outcry. what you describe doesn't sound like justice.
>> the reason that there's almost no public out cry is that very, ve few people in america understand the rights. when i talk to team that come in and say a terrible thing happened to me. and i tell them there's nothing you can do about it. that's the first time they heard about it. almost no one that you meet on the street is aware that you are giving up these rights. >> next, cases are being decided not by the court of law, but by the word of god.
like? >> nick was funny. nick was smart. nick had the best sense of witted. >> reporter: him. >> you had a blast. >> reporter: this woman is talking about her older son. growing up gay in tennessee was not easy. >> it was something that was not acceptable. and he, you know, had to deal with his identity. >> reporter: when he started drinking heavily, he was sent to a christian rehab programme in florida called teen challenge. >> reporter: you sent him to a detox programme. >> yes. >> reporter: what happened? >> when nick went there, the first thing they tried to do was de-gay him. >> reporter: they tried to de-gay him. >> de-gay him
facility. >> yes. >> reporter: and that drove him to drink. >> he stole cough syrup from a store when he was on a job site. >> reporter: teen challenge rule. overdose. >> did you try talking to them? >> i tried to find out what happened to nick. when they would continuously lie, i knew i would not get anywhere with finding out what happened with my son. i have never sued anyone, but i nick. >> a lawsuit would force teen challenge to answer questions. she found out that was not an option. there was an arbitration agreement. when you were told you couldn't sue and had to go through arbitration, did you know what that meant? >> no, i had to google it to find out what it meant.
>> and when you googled it, what did you find? >> it was a lot of lawyer words. >> reporter: did it make sense. >> it didn't make sense to me. >> the arbitration was signed by nick, not her. >> why does this apply to you. this. >> i never felt it applieded to me because of the fact that nick signed this. >> reporter: instead of following the laws and boks. this would be decided by versus in the bible. it was a christian arbitration. >> how would it work? >> there would be a couple of other christian people there. we would talk it out. you know, tuck it out. eight hours one day. go over the bible. what it says about it. 8 hours the next day. come to an agreement. if we didn't come to an agreement it would go to another level. i'm not sure what that was.
>> reporter: i suspected you had to know you weren't going to get justice by praying, you'd get it in a courtroom. >> exactly. >> religious arbitration is enforced by courts nationwide. anything? >> yes, it was going to be upfront 10,000. >> 10,000. $10,000 up front. and i'm not sure where that money was going to go to. >> you realise if you go to court. fee. >> right. >> and you have your day. >> right. ridiculous. >> absolutely, there was no way $10,000. >> she said she was tole her attorney could be present at the prayer meetings, but couldn't speak. whatever was decided would be final and binding. it couldn't be appealed. >> some will see this and think
it's nuts that you have to resolve the dispute by reading the bible and praying. >> i could pray all day and do. i can't go in there and read the bible and what they said. i know it better than they do. but hug and kiss and make up. i couldn't do that. nick's voice never would have been heard. that was important to me, to get nick's story out there. >> teen challenge that wouldn't comment agreed to a confidential settlement. she wanted her day in court. she believes this resolution is better than the original agreement. to just pray it away. there doesn't seem to be the political will to reform arbitration, there's bills that have been languishing in congress. this month two senator proposed
a bill to ban arbitration from still rights cases. it will certainly be an uphill battle. that's it for "america tonight". i'm michael oku. he ♪ ♪ >> this is a story of the biggest undercover sting in the history of africa and the extraordinary man who carried it off. >> doesn't matter who you are, wherever you are hiding i come with my cameras. >> some of the most trusted people in the