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Green Tree Financial Corp. v. Bazzle

539 U.S. 444, 123 S. Ct. 2402, 156 L. Ed. 2d 414 (2003)

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Green Tree Financial Corp. v. Bazzle

United States Supreme Court

539 U.S. 444, 123 S. Ct. 2402, 156 L. Ed. 2d 414 (2003)

Facts

Lynn and Burt Bazzle (plaintiffs), Daniel Lackey, and George and Florine Buggs (customers) separately entered into loan contracts with Green Tree Financial Corporation (Green Tree) (defendant). The contracts stipulated that they were governed by South Carolina law. Each contract contained an arbitration provision stating that all disputes would be resolved through binding arbitration by one arbitrator selected by Green Tree with the consent of the buyer or buyers. The contract further gave the arbitrator all powers provided by the contract and by law. Green Tree failed to provide its customers with a legally required form, and the customers filed separate suits in South Carolina state court, seeking damages. The customers each asked the court to certify their claims as class actions, and Green Tree asked the court to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration under the security agreements. The courts eventually certified each of the proceedings as class actions and ordered the parties into arbitration. The arbitrator was the same for each case and considered the proceedings as class arbitrations, awarding damages to the classes. Green Tree appealed the arbitration decisions to the South Carolina Court of Appeals, claiming that class arbitration was not allowable under the agreements’ arbitration provision. The South Carolina Supreme Court withdrew both cases, assumed jurisdiction, and combined the proceedings. The court found that because the contracts were silent as to class arbitration, they consequently authorized class arbitration. Green Tree appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Thomas, J.)

Dissent (Rehnquist, C.J.)

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