Amtrak Sued for its Arbitration Provision

Public Citizen filed a lawsuit against Amtrak challenging the legality of imposing an arbitration provision on its riders as a condition of passage. The arbitration provision, introduced in 2019, states that it “is intended to be as broad as legally possible” applying to “all claims, disputes, or controversies, past, present, or future” for any rider.

Courts will often uphold even broad arbitration agreements in private contracts, but what makes this lawsuit interesting is that the federal government owns the majority of Amtrak, which is the basis for Public Citizen’s lawsuit. Public Citizen argues that the train operator is constrained by the U.S. Constitution in a way that private actors are not. The lawsuit asserts that the arbitration provision takes away passengers’ ability to go to court, whereas the First Amendment guarantees that the government cannot so easily take away citizens’ access to courts; it is similarly unconstitutional to force passengers into a system that does not have the protections of the federal court system; and allowing only private arbitrators to decide passengers’ claims is an unconstitutional attempt by one government-funded entity (Amtrak) to take away the power of another branch of government (the judiciary). For more, see