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AOL Member Agreement Is Unenforceable in Calif.

(CN) - America Online's member agreement is unenforceable in California in that it improperly limits class-action privacy claims to Virginia state court, the 9th Circuit ruled.

Kasadore Ramkissoon and two anonymous plaintiffs sued AOL for publicizing the private Internet search records of more than 650,000 members over a 10-day span in 2006.

AOL claimed that its members signed an agreement that limited class actions to Virginia courts.

In a per-curiam decision, the judges of the San Francisco-based federal appeals court ruled that the language of the agreement - "courts of Virginia" - clearly indicate that the court actions are limited to Virginia state courts.

Therefore, the judges ruled, the forum clause in the AOL agreement is unenforceable as it relates to AOL users in California. The plaintiffs claimed that AOL violated federal and California law.

"We find no ambiguity in the forum selection clause," the judges wrote. "Even if we found the phrase ambiguous, we would interpret in plaintiffs' favor."

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