Enforceability of Jury Trial Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

Enforceability of Jury Trial Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

Jury trial waivers are generally found in contracts containing an arbitration clause. Such clauses are usually upheld under Oklahoma law, or preempted by federal law. To determine if federal law applies, the first question is whether the claim involves interstate commerce. If the claim is entirely intrastate, only Oklahoma law is applicable. Rogers v. Dell Computer Corp., 2005 OK 51, ¶13, 138 P.3d 826, 829-30.

While an exhaustive analysis of the FAA is beyond the scope of this article, the analysis generally considers whether “(1) the parties have validly agreed to arbitrate disputes, and (2) [whether] the particular dispute falls within the scope of the agreement to arbitrate.” Bark v. Lake Country Chevrolet Cadillac, LLC, 2014 OK CIV APP 24, ¶ 10, 321 P.3d 1007, 1010-11. Questions concerning the contract’s “validity as a whole” are submitted to the arbitrator. Id. “If, however, there exists a question of whether a valid contract containing an agreement to arbitrate was ever formed between the parties . . . the court [must] determine whether a valid contract was formed before the question of an agreement to arbitrate may be considered.” Id.  Where the FAA does not preempt a waiver, Oklahoma law applies.

Oklahoma has adopted the Uniform Arbitration Act (OUAA), which provides that “arbitration agreements shall be valid, enforceable and irrevocable except upon a ground that exists at law or in equity for the revocation of a contract.” Bruner v. Timberlane Manor Ltd. P’ship, 2006 OK 90, ¶¶ 23-24, 155 P.3d 16, 25 (citing 12 O.S. Supp. 2005, § 1857(A)). “This section is a clear expression of Oklahoma’s policy favoring arbitration agreements.” Id. (citing Voss v. City of Oklahoma City, 1980 OK 148, 618 P.2d 925; Rollings v. Thermodyne Indust., Inc., 1996 OK 6, 910 P.2d 1030).

by Jeremy Ward and Emily Pearson

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