Court Refuses Video Game Company's Arbitration Bid in Minor-Involved Case

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

In February 2022, J.R. II, a minor, brought a case against Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), alleging that it engaged in unlawful and unfair business practices by deceptively inducing players of its game, Apex Legends, to purchase digital game-specific currency. The ultimate issue of the case is whether the plaintiff validly disaffirmed the entire user contract, including the arbitration clause.

What Is the Case About?

While the case was originally brought to trial court in California, EA contended on appeal that the trial court should have granted its motion to compel arbitration of the claims. EA cites the user agreement which J.R. II agreed to before playing Apex Legends, which includes an arbitration agreement.

J.R. II argued that he was not bound by the user agreement because he, as a minor, disaffirmed the entire user agreement under California Family Code section 6710, which allows minors to disaffirm contracts, rending “any alleged contract between [EA] and [him] invalid."1

EA disputed that the plaintiff successfully disaffirmed the user agreement, given that J.R. II did not make “a contractual challenge that is specific to that delegation clause.” Furthermore, EA argued that whether a contract has been rendered void by disaffirmance must be made by an arbitrator, not by the court.

Nevertheless, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s decision and sided with the plaintiff. The court expressed that it is immaterial whether the minor’s disaffirmance of the contract expressly referred to the arbitration provision. Furthermore, the appeals court reaffirmed the trial court’s findings that J.R. II “unequivocally disaffirmed his agreement, both by discontinuing his use of [EA's] service shortly after the complaint was filed, and by expressly disaffirming the contract in his declaration filed [August 17, 2022].” Because of J.R. II's declaration of disaffirmance, “there are no agreements between J.R. II and EA.”2

Why Is This Case Important?

Mandatory arbitration provisions have grown to be ubiquitous in consumer contracts. While courts generally exercise a high degree of deference to mandatory arbitration provisions, Family Code section 6710 is a strong defense against such enforcement. This law and other similar laws exist to protect minors, who lack the same capacity to contract as adults, from unconscionable and one-sided contracts and in this instance, from an agreement’s mandatory arbitration clause.

[1] Cal. Fam. Code § 6710.

[2] J.R. v. ELECTRONIC ARTS INC, No. E080414 (Cal. Ct. App 2024).

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Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

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