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Bill to end Amtrak arbitration policy again introduced in Congress

By | October 28, 2021

Senator who introduced similar legislation in 2020 calls ticket-purchase clause ‘unjust and unfair’

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Trains Washington Watch logoWASHINGTON — A U.S. Senator who has twice before introduced legislation to end forced-arbitration agreements — once in all cases, and once specifically regarding Amtrak — is part of a new legislative effort aimed at the arbitration policy that is part of Amtrak ticket purchases.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has led introduction in the Senate of a bill called the Ending Passenger Rail Forced Arbitration Act, while Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) has introduced parallel legislation in the House of Representatives.

“This bill will restore vital legal rights to the travelers who are injured on Amtrak trains and seek just redress,” Blumenthal said in a Wednesday press release. “Amtrak’s current forced arbitration and class action ban policies are unjust and unfair. Riders are often unaware they’ve signed away their legal rights with the purchase of a ticket until the worst happens, like so many passengers impacted by the Montana crash discovered first hand.”

Amtrak in 2019 added a policy that required ticket purchasers to waive their right to sue Amtrak for any reason, instead requiring them to seek compensation through arbitration. The law firm that has filed a number of suits as a result of September’s fatal derailment of the Empire Builder in Montana will try to overturn the arbitration policy as part of those suits [see “Seven suits filed …,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 6, 2021].

Blumenthal was among a group of 13 Democratic senators that asked Amtrak’s then-CEO, Richard Anderson, to do away with the arbitration policy in late 2019 — a request Anderson quickly rejected on cost grounds. He was also among those who introduced a bill that year, the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act,” to invalidate all such agreements [see “Senators request Amtrak eliminate arbitration requirement …,” News Wire, Dec. 3, 2019]. Blumenthal and Lamb then introduced Amtrak-specific arbitration legislation in 2020 [see “News Wire Digest second section for Friday, March 6”]. Neither bill advanced out of committee.

The Associated Press reports Amtrak had no immediate comment on the new legislation.

6 thoughts on “Bill to end Amtrak arbitration policy again introduced in Congress

  1. I’m torn on this one. There are times when arbitration should be used but other times when injured passengers should get more than an arbitration award. But lawsuits are expensive and since this is Amtrak the taxpayers end up paying for most of the award.

    1. I have yet to see an jury awarded amount that was reasonable…if trial awarded amounts were reasonable then I could perhaps agree with getting rid of forced arbitration. However, I also believe the maximum award for anything related to an Amtrak accident should be 250k(maybe 500k, and that should apply to ALL cases), that is plenty of money of people don’t bother to waste it(which most end up doing). The ONLY people that benefit from higher awards are lawyers, every single time…it is not the plaintiffs that benefit from extreme payouts.

  2. I’m not torn, I think that forced arbitration should be banned in all cases and contracts. If folks want to enter into arbitration on a voluntary basis, well fine. You would be amazed by how many times you have signed away your rights without knowing it.

  3. Arbitration clauses, requirements where arbitration proceedings will be held, and similar stipulations on legal proceedings are part of almost any license agreement or contract a consumer accepts. Have you read the terms and conditions (T&C) for this site? What the T&C for the browser you use to access the site or the T&C for your favorite online merchant?

    In the name of “cost savings” or “expediency” we have seen the proliferation of constraints on seeking redress. Neither you or I alone are significant enough to get the T&C changed.

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