Many savvy corporations and other entities in Maryland are slyly slipping in arbitration clauses in agreements between parties. Many times these arbitration clauses force victims of personal injury to forgo their right to a jury trial and and undergo binding arbitration. Many times consumers do not even realize what they have agreed to because the arbitration clause is buried in the fine print of a document or contract.
History of Arbitration in Maryland:
In 1973, the Maryland Legislature adopted the Maryland Uniform Arbitration Act (hereinafter, “MUAA”). See MD. CODE ANN. CRTS. & JUD. PROC. §§ 3-201, et seq. (West 2010). Arbitration is the process whereby parties voluntarily agree to substitute a private tribunal (e.g. the arbitrators) for the public tribunal (e.g. the courts) otherwise available to them. Gold Coast Mall, Inc. v. Larmar Corp., 298 Md. 96, 103, 468 A.2d 91, 95 (1983). Parties may agree to arbitrate disputes pursuant to a contract between them, commonly known as an Arbitration Agreement. Id.
Matters which fall within the scope of an Arbitration Clause are subject to the procedures for arbitration set out in the agreement between the parties and the MUAA. “Where there is a broad arbitration clause, calling for the arbitration of any and all disputes arising out of the contract, all issues are arbitrable unless expressly and specifically excluded by the agreement.” Id. at 104. When the language of the agreement is ambiguous or unclear as to whether a matter falls within the scope of the Arbitration Clause, the Court of Appeals of Maryland has held that the initial determination of whether a matter is arbitrable or not, should be left to the arbitrator and not the courts. See id. at 105 (“Question of substantive arbitrability initially should be left to the decision of the arbitrator, not the courts.”).
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