Federal courts have followed the lead of the U.S. Supreme Court over the last few years to uphold mandatory arbitration provisions in most circumstances. But a decision involving a small American Indian tribe and some shady lenders shows at least some limits still exist.

But defense attorney Alan S. Kaplinsky of Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia said that the decision is limited to tribal-law based contracts, a subset of cases that is very small. “The opinion will have virtually no impact on conventional arbitration agreements which don't disclaim the application of federal and state laws but rather confirm that those laws will apply.”