WASHINGTON — A group of 13 U.S. Senators, all Democrats, have written Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson requesting that the passenger railroad do away with its recent move requiring passengers to accept arbitration rather than being able to sue — a request Anderson quickly turned down.
In January, Amtrak changed the contract language accompanying its tickets to require passengers to agree to arbitration. In their letter, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn) and the 12 other senators wrote that the policy “is gravely imperiling traveling Americans’ access to justice and public accountability.” It claims that the agreement is “particularly disturbing due to its broadness of scope,” which includes personal injury claims and wrongful death. It would also eliminate potential class-action suits.
The Connecticut Mirror reports that Anderson, in his response, said the move to arbitration was to “expedite resolution of claims and to reduce unnecessary litigation costs. … Agreements to arbitrate are desirable precisely because they trade the procedures of federal courts for the simplicity, informality, and expedition of arbitration.” The money saved by resolving disputes through arbitration, rather than the courts, “can then be spent in safety programs and other passenger service and care programs.”
Blumenthal told the Mirror that the response is typical to complaints about forced arbitration: “They say it costs less, it’s quicker, but the rights of plaintiffs are vastly undercut.”
He has introduced a bill, the “Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act,” that would invalidate all forced-arbitration agreements.
The arbitration clause was also one of the topics in a House hearing on Amtrak last month [see “Amtrak policies challenged at House hearing,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 13, 2019).