Aug. 17, 2004 – In increasing numbers, companies are requiring employees and customers to sign contracts waiving their rights to settle certain types of disputes with the company in front a jury. Among the list of disputes becoming off limits to juries are problems with residential leases, car payments, checking account arguments and mortgage contracts.
Instead of bringing disputes with a company to a jury, companies such as American Express, Toyota and Bank of America are asking for these disputes to face a lone judge. Many companies believe juries are biased in favor of plaintiffs against companies and so the increasing use of jury-waivers improves a company's chance of winning in court, according to the Wall Street Journal.
While it is legal to give up a Constitutional right, the waiver requires people to give this right up before a dispute even arises. Moreover, many times the waiver can be written in the "fine print" of a contract, meaning people may not even know they are signing away their right to a trial by jury.
Advocates of jury waivers, citing a recent study by the US Department of Justice, argue judges and juries often reach similar conclusions. This same report, however, states that on average, juries hand out awards to plaintiffs worth 32% more than judges' awards.