In Oxford Health Plans v Sutter, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an arbitrator has the power to interpret an arbitration clause and unless the agreement states otherwise, the arbitrator can construe the clause to permit class arbitrations.
The case was brought in state court by a physician who alleged that the health plan had failed to fully and promptly pay him and other physicians. The health plan moved to compel arbitration which the state court ordered. The arbitrator then construed the arbitration clause to permit class arbitration. The health plan then filed in federal court a motion to vacate the arbitration order asserting that the arbitrator exceeded his authority. The district court denied the motion and the Third Circuit affirmed. The unanimous Supreme Court ruling holds that arbitrators have the power to construe arbitration clauses as permitting class arbitration. The decision thus clears the way for cases to proceed as class arbitrations.