Nearly a decade ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, L.P., held that for an arbitration agreement to be enforceable, it had to contain an explicit waiver of the parties’ right to seek access to court. According to a recent New Jersey Appellate Division opinion, that long-standing rule has been qualified to reflect the relative sophistication of the parties involved in the dispute. In County of Passaic v. Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc. d/b/a Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the Appellate Division considered a contract between the County and the entity that managed the County’s self-funded benefits plan. Following the County’s institution of a breach of contract lawsuit, Horizon successfully moved to compel arbitration based upon a clause in the parties’ agreement that required “[i]n the event of any dispute between the parties to this Agreement arising under its terms, the parties shall submit the dispute to binding arbitration under the commercial rules of the American Arbitration Association.” The clause in question contained no explicit waiver of court access. Consequently, the County appealed the decision, arguing for that very reason, the arbitration clause was unenforceable.
Continue Reading New Jersey Appellate Division Qualifies Longstanding Arbitration Requirement That Waiver of Court Relief Must Be Express