Thursday, March 02, 2006

Who wouldn't want to choose a Virginia forum

This article discusses appeals in Washington state regarding, among other things, consumer contracts with AOL, including the validity of the forum selection clause, about which it says:

"In a separate case Tuesday, justices heard arguments from America Online, which has a clause in its contract that would force consumers to only take action in Virginia courts. The state of Virginia does not have a process for which consumers can bring class-action lawsuits to court.

The Washington Court of Appeals struck down that provision, saying the clause violated public policy.

AOL's lawyer, John O'Quinn, argued that consumers would be allowed to take class actions in federal court.

AOL's "terms of service" is also a take-it-or-leave-it contract. But those terms are even more unconscionable than an outright class-action ban, Smith said, because it essentially allows AOL to claim that Washington's consumer laws do not have jurisdiction over them, even though they do consumer business in Washington.

"Each of the individual consumers in this case has suffered damages that probably are less than $250. This is little -- if any -- incentive to bring an individual private action in Washington, let alone in Virginia," Smith wrote in another brief to the court."

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