Feb. 11, 2010 Volume 31, No. 19
Law researcher studies class arbitrations on international stage
Uniquely U.S. process has global possibilities
For 25 years, the United States has been the only nation to allow class arbitrations, which are a unique combination of collective relief and private dispute resolution. However, Canada has recently begun to consider adopting the legal process, a move that would have national and international ramifications.
S.I. Strong, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri School of Law and an international class arbitration expert, has received a grant from the International Institute of Canadian Studies to further research how, and to what extent, class arbitrations will begin to develop outside of the United States.
Judicial class actions resolve the legal claims of as many as hundreds of thousands of injured parties at one time. Class arbitrations are similar to class actions; however, arbitrations are heard by a private individual instead of a judge. Although class actions and class arbitrations typically involve parties who are all resident in the same country, both types of proceedings can also have international or cross-border implications.
Canada is one of the few nations that has considered cross-border class actions, often involving groups of plaintiffs that come from both the United States and Canada. This makes Canada particularly useful as a source of comparative research.
“Canada is perfectly situated for dealing with both domestic and international issues,” Strong says. “Not only has it begun to address the issues associated with class arbitrations but it’s also one of the few jurisdictions that allow class action proceedings similar to those used in the United States.”
Strong is the first researcher to address international class action arbitration. The new grant will allow Strong to research the ramifications internationally if nations such as Canada begin to adopt class arbitration as a viable legal process.
“If Canada develops its own form of class arbitration, it would help take away the negative international stigma of this being a particularly American device. That’s a charge that has been leveled at arbitrations here in the United States when people have tried to avoid arbitration of mass disputes. If Canada adopts class arbitrations, those perceptions could change,” Strong says.
Strong believes that class arbitration will soon be adopted by nations outside the United States and that it will not have the negative impact that many opponents anticipate.
“It’s going to happen, sooner or later. The real questions are, ‘What is it going to look like?’ and ‘How much is this going to resemble U.S. procedures?,’ ” Strong says.
Strong recently received national recognition for her work on international class arbitration from the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR Institute) by winning the 2009 award for best professional article.
Strong also has written a book on international commercial arbitration, Research and Practice in International and Commercial Arbitration: Sources and Strategies, published in 2009 by Oxford University Press.