Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Dec 16, 2019

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

If a signed arbitration agreement is in place, one side may not unilaterally decide that it does not want to arbitrate. In all but a few very limited cases, courts will refuse to hear the case and compel the parties involved to decide the dispute according to the terms of the arbitration outlined in their contract. 

Enforcement of an Arbitration Agreement

There is a very limited array of exceptions in which a court will not enforce an arbitration agreement. The major exception is something called “unconscionable adhesion contracts.” If a party does not wish to arbitrate and wants to convince the court that he shouldn’t have to because the contract and/or arbitration clause was an unconscionable adhesion contract, there are a few key things he has to prove:

  • He must prove there was no reasonable opportunity for any sort of negotiation, and that the contract was presented to him on a take-it-or-leave it basis. This is the essential definition of an adhesion contract. Many contracts are adhesion contracts, like those for the purchase or use of airline tickets, insurance, cars, credit cards, cell phones, or any other consumer goods where you may sign a contract or agreement.
  • He must prove the terms were extremely unfair/unreasonable/advantageous to the party offering the contract. Essentially, this is what it takes to prove the terms are “unconscionable.”

If the court doesn’t find that a contract was an unconscionable adhesion contract, they will enforce the arbitration clause, and the two parties will have no choice but to handle their issue in arbitration. Further, whatever decision the arbitrator makes will be binding on both parties, unlike in other types of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) like mediation.

Getting Help

If you are involved in a dispute and you believe you may need to arbitrate the case, consult with a lawyer to find out if you have any options for voiding the arbitration clause. If you do not, your lawyer should still be able to help you throughout the arbitration process to ensure your rights are protected.