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Sunday, April 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Federal Claims Whacked From AOL Class Action

(CN) - A federal judge in San Francisco trimmed the federal claims from a class action accusing AOL of illegally publishing a database of the search queries of more than 650,000 members.

A group of California AOL members said the online publication of their queries violated various California consumer protection laws and three federal laws: the Electronic Communications Privacy and federal laws against unjust enrichment and the public disclosure of private facts.

AOL argued that its users were required to sue in Virginia courts based on a forum selection clause in their member agreements.

U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong initially dismissed the complaint, but the 9th Circuit reversed and remanded, specifying that the AOL member agreement is "unenforceable as to California resident plaintiffs bringing class action claims under California consumer law.

AOL argued that this 9th Circuit mandate meant that all other claims not based on California consumer protection laws had to be dismissed.

Judge Armstrong agreed.

"[W]hile Plaintiffs have a right to allege a federal claim, they have cited no authority to support their contention that they have a right to adjudicate their claims in federal court where the claim at issue is one over which the state courts have concurrent jurisdiction," she wrote.

"In sum, the Court finds no merit to Plaintiffs' assertion that the forum selection clause cannot be applied to claims arising under federal law."

Armstrong dismissed the federal claims without prejudice, saying the plaintiffs could re-file them in Virginia state court.

She also dismissed a named plaintiff who doesn't live in California and didn't allege any claims under state consumer protection laws.

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