Supreme Court hears oral arguments in arbitration, robocall cases
MarkThomas / Pixabay
Supreme Court hears oral arguments in arbitration, robocall cases

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc. and Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid.

Henry Schein, Inc. addresses a narrow legal issue related to arbitration clauses, weighing whether the court or the arbitrator should determine if a case is arbitrable when a clause in a contract designated the authority to determine arbitrability to an arbitrator.

This case has been in dispute in the courts for years and has already been argued before the Supreme Court in 2018. The Supreme Court held then that even when the argument for arbitration is baseless, arbitrability clauses are enforceable. It remanded the case 9-0 and has now returned on only this very narrow question of who determines arbitrability. The court has already accepted as fact that the contract giving rise to the case designated an arbitrator to make the decision, and they must only determine whether the trial court should settle such a dispute anyway.

The second case involving Facebook raises the issue of whether the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 applies to any kind of device that is capable of logging and automatically calling telephone numbers even when the device is not relying on a random number generator. These automatic calls with artificial or prerecorded voices, otherwise called “robocalls,” are banned under the Act.

Noah Duguid sued Facebook claiming that the company sent him automatic text messages without his consent. The texts were sent by mistake—Duguid is not even a Facebook user—but he continued receiving the messages for several months despite contacting Facebook to stop. The definition of an automatic telephone dialing system in the Act encompasses “equipment which has the capacity — (A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.”

The court heard a similar challenge to the Act in a case earlier this year that alleged that the Act violated the First Amendment by containing a government-debt exception, making it a content-based ban on speech. The court in that case struck down the exception, but not the rest of the law. Facebook now argues that devices automatically dialing telephone numbers without a random number generator do not violate the Act.

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