Jump to Navigation

Oxford Health Plans v. Sutter

Perhaps some will view the US Supreme Court's ruling in Oxford Health Plans v. Sutter as a surprise in the Court's jurisprudence in class actions. Between cases like Stolt-Nielsen and Concepcion the general perception of the Supreme Court in class action cases has been hostile to employees and consumers who find themselves in conflict with employers or businesses.

The plaintiffs' bar has typically found the Roberts' Court hostile to the class action mechanism and favorable to big business. But in Oxford the Supreme Court unanimously held that Oxford Health Plans read the Supreme Court's decision in Stolt-Nielsen entirely too broad.

At stake in Oxford was whether an arbitration agreement that was silent as to class actions allowed the plaintiff to bring a class action. Oxford, reading Stolt-Nielsen too broadly as it were, argued that the lack of a specific allowance for class arbitration meant that plaintiffs could not seek redress in arbitration on a class basis.

Not so said the unanimous decision written by Justice Kagan. In Stolt-Nielsen the central issue was that the parties explicitly stated that there was no agreement on class arbitration. In Oxford, no such stipulation existed. That left the arbitrator to determine whether the arbitration agreement indicated intent by the parties to allow class arbitration. The arbitrator decided that the agreement allowed for class arbitration and the Supreme Court's hands are tied in overturning an arbitrator's ruling. Justice Kagan went so far as to say "The Arbitrator's construction holds, however good, bad, or ugly". Some observers reviewed the oral argument transcript and believed that the Court would one again side against the continued viability of class actions.  Once again Court-watchers are reminded to not read too much into oral argument transcripts.  That this decision was unanimous puts not only Oxford in context, but also the Court's holding in Stolt-Nielsen.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Subscribe to this blog’s feed FindLaw Network

Contact The Firm

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy


Kawahito Shraga & Westrick LLP
1990 South Bundy Drive, Suite 280

Contact & Directions

Fax 310-593-2520 Map & Directions


Super Lawyers Law 200 Go-To Top 500 Firm