Sanderson Farms, Inc. v. Gatlin
In this case, plaintiffs Roy and Nelda Gatlin opposed a motion by Sanderson Farms, Inc., to compel arbitration of their state law claims. The Supreme Court of Mississippi ruled that Sanderson Farms, Inc. — one of the top seven poultry producers in the United States — wrongfully denied family farmers Roy and Nelda Gatlin of Jones County, Mississippi, the right to have their day in court, when the company terminated the couple’s production contract prematurely, then breached its promise to pay half the $11,000 estimated costs for an arbitration hearing. The Court affirmed by a 6-3 vote the ruling of the Circuit Court of Jones County, which found that Sanderson had violated its own arbitration clause and, in so doing, waived its ability to force the farmers into arbitration.We wrote the Gatlins’ brief on appeal. Our brief argued that the trial court was correct and, alternatively, that the arbitration clause was unconscionable for imposing significant costs and depriving the farmers of their right to recover punitive damages or participate in class actions.