This month, a panel of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, ruled that a proposed class action brought by customers of a solar energy company was subject to arbitration. The case, Brian and Ananis Griffoul v. NRG Residential Solar Solutions, LLC, Dkt. No. A-5536-16T1, alleged fraudulent marketing under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act as well as violations of the state’s Truth-In-Consumer Contract Warranty and Notice Act.
The defendant, NRG Residential Solar Solutions, LLC, responded to the lawsuit with a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the claims with prejudice. The trial court judge originally sided with the plaintiffs, finding the case analogous to Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, L.P., 219 N.J. 430, 435 (2014), which found an arbitration clause unenforceable because it failed to clearly and unambiguously state that consumers were waiving their right to seek relief in court. Specifically, in Atalese, the court held the arbitration clause failed to state that consumers were waiving their right to seek relief in court by agreeing to the arbitration clause.
But the appellate court in Griffoul reversed, premising its holding on the arbitration clause’s clear and unambiguous language. It found the arbitration clause expressly “announced” that any dispute was subject to arbitration; that arbitration was the “sole and exclusive remedy”; and “clearly stated the parties were waiving the right to a jury trial.” Importantly, the appellate court also found–unlike the trial court–that the arbitration clause “clearly” limited claims brought in arbitration to individual claims, therefore barring a class action in arbitration.
Griffoul brings more certainty and clarification to the law. When considered alongside Atalese, it underscores the critical importance of using clear language, which unambiguously announces to consumers that any potential claim is subject to arbitration and that they are waiving their right to seek relief in court.