Man Beaten in His Home by Rent-a-Center Employee Forced to Arbitration

Robert Sachs, Esq.

In a recent case, an 88-year-old man was beaten and robbed by a Rent-a-Center employee, and left for three days before being discovered in critical condition. Any logical person might think that such a terrible story would see its day in court. Well, that’s true–but not for what you think.

Robert Sachs, Esq.

Turns out, the victim had recently rented a refrigerator from Rent-a-Center. A 28-year-old employee had come to install it for him and repair a TV. Two weeks later, after quitting his job but allegedly still wearing the Rent-a-Center uniform, he returned to rob the elderly man and brutally beat him.

So far, the assailant has been criminally charged, but the victim is left without a chance for recourse. Why? For one, the criminal system offers no way to pay his medical bills or lessen his suffering. Second, he unknowingly signed away his right to trial in the fine print of the paperwork he signed to rent the refrigerator.

The greatest insult to this injury: his case went to court only to confirm that he can’t be heard in court. A Missouri Court of Appeals, citing a pro-corporate Supreme Court opinion, held that Rent-a-Center’s arbitration clause should decide whether or not to hear his story, not the civil courts.

Also upsetting, this customer was likely already having a rough time before his home was invaded and he was beaten. Rent-a-Center is a corporation that often caters to people who can’t afford to buy basic home appliances during tough times. Here, the court permits the rental corporation to escape all accountability to its patrons, if it wants to. Rent-a-Center is given the go-ahead to ignore or overrule disputes with its customers–or in other words, the assault and battery of an elderly renter. The only one with any incentive to hear the case is the arbitrator, whom Rent-a-Center may pay hundreds of dollars an hour.

Plainly put, this is the stark and backwards reality of the Supreme Court’s efforts to support mandatory arbitration:

Big companies buy their way out of the courts. Vulnerable consumers are manipulated and hurt when they’re already down. Justice is written off when you rent a refrigerator. Big corporations win, and consumers are belittled and abused.

Most concerning, this happens everyday. Whether you’re buying an app or a new car, you may have just signed away your Constitutional right to trial…To learn more about the issue and spread awareness, watch Lost in the Fine Print, a film by the Alliance for Justice, narrated by Robert Reich.

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