Class action and arbitration issues are at the center of the Supreme Court’s docket this term. Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter is the latest case involving the intersection of those issues. Oxford, which will be argued on March 25, follows on the heels of American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, which addresses the enforceability of an arbitration agreement that (as interpreted) precludes parties from proceeding on a class-wide basis. Oxford, by contrast, asks whether, consistent with the Federal Arbitration Act, an arbitration agreement that does not expressly address class arbitration can nonetheless be interpreted to authorize that procedure.
Nearly three years ago, the Supreme Court explained “that a party may not be compelled under the [Federal Arbitration Act] to submit to class arbitration unless there is a contractual basis for concluding that the party agreed to do so.” Stolt-Nielsen v. AnimalFeeds International Corp. But at the time, the court expressly declined “to decide what contractual basis may support a finding that the parties agreed to authorize class-action arbitration.” That question is now directly presented to the court in Oxford.