In an opinion today, Judge Oetken ruled that Sprint was collaterally estopped from revisiting an arbitration ruling in Kansas concluding that, under Kansas’s Unfair Trade and Consumer Protection Act (“KCPA”), a customer named Vincent Emilio was allowed to bring his claims against Sprint as a class action. In the underlying dispute, Emilio alleges it was unlawful for Sprint to pass along to its customers a fee to cover a New York state tax. Sprint argued that its agreements with customers bar class actions, and that, while the KCPA prohibits these types of class waivers, the KCPA was applicable only to conduct “within this state” (i.e., Kansas), not to issues relating to a New York tax. Judge Oetken ruled, however, that Sprint bargained for the arbitrator to make this decision, and already lost on the point:
Sprint argues that because Emilio “seeks to recover for a New York regulatory fee, which was applied to his New York telephone bill for services that were delivered to him in York,” Emilio therefore “did not engage in a consumer transaction with Sprint that was ‘within’ the State of Kansas.” (Sprint Br. at 10-11.) The main precedent that Sprint cites on this point is nonbinding—a 2007 opinion in which a Kansas federal district judge concluded that the KCPA did not extend to cover a lawsuit arising from Sprint’s manner of levying a Texas regulatory fee on a wireless customer. But the views of the Kansas district court, or of this Court, concerning the KCPA’s applicability are beside the point if the arbitrator’s own construction of Kansas law is conclusive in this action . . . .[R]egardless of the correctness of Arbitrator Roberts’ interpretation of Kansas law, it is conclusive here. Sprint cannot now relitigate the point.