Morgan v. AT&T Wireless Services, Inc. (California)
Customers of AT&T Mobility agreed that any disputes between the parties would be resolved by arbitration on an individual basis, thus barring class actions. Plaintiffs contended that they purchased phones that were rendered unusable by network changes, and that free replacement phones were inadequate. AT&T invoked the arbitration agreements at the start of the litigation, but the superior court denied that request under then-existing state law. After the U.S. Supreme Court held in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion that federal law preempted that state law, AT&T again sought to invoke the arbitration agreement. The superior court denied class certification, reasoning that although AT&T had waived its right to invoke arbitration against the named plaintiffs by litigating the case after Concepcion, that waiver did not extend to the claims of the absent members of the putative class. Plaintiffs’ appeal presented the question whether a motion to compel arbitration is premature as to absent class members unless and until a motion for class certification is filed.