11th Circuit Compels Arbitration Despite Allegation that Arbitration Agreement was Procedurally and Substantively Unconscionable
This case involves a dispute between American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (“Aflac”) and a group of independent contractors (“associates”), arising out of alleged misrepresentations by Aflac. Pursuant to their contracts with Aflac, the associates agreed to arbitrate any claims against the company, and after learning of the associates’ plans to file a class action, Aflac filed a motion to compel arbitration in Georgia state court. In response, the associates removed the case to federal court and sought to void the arbitration agreement by arguing that it was procedurally and substantively unconscionable.
Specifically, the associates argued that (1) they did not have a sufficient opportunity to review the arbitration provision before executing the agreement, (2) that the agreement was one-sided because it required the associates to arbitrate claims against Aflac, but did not include the same requirement for Aflac, and (3) the costs and fees to be paid by the associates were so great that it would effectively deny the associates a forum to bring their claims. The district court for the Middle District of Georgia found these arguments unavailing and entered an order compelling arbitration.
The associates moved for reconsideration, but were denied. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reviewed the district court’s order to compel arbitration de novo. However, the court’s analysis did not progress past the associates’ failure to produce any evidence in support of their unconscionability claims at the briefing and hearing stage. For some of their arguments, the Eleventh Circuit noted that even if the associates had produced evidence, Georgia law governing mutuality of remedies and confidentiality provisions in arbitration agreements still would not support a finding that the agreement was unconscionable. As such, the panel affirmed the district court’s judgment compelling arbitration and denying the motion for reconsideration.
American Family Life Assurance Co. of Columbus v. Hubbard, et al., No. 18-11869 (11th Cir. Jan. 7, 2019).