May It Please the Court® A Weblog of Legal News & Observations
Quote of the Day - The Big Print Giveth, The Small Print Taketh Away. - Chapter 7,485, Verse 1,976 by Robert Rosefsky

"I agree." No, I Didn't Really Mean To, Though.

How many times have you signed up to use an internet service and just clicked on the "I agree" button? Lots, if you're like me.

But the real question is: do you read online agreements? Do I? Well, sometimes - especially if it's a bank or financial institution. But for the average, run of the mill website, admittedly, I don't.

Ok, so sue me.

That's exactly what happened to this guy. He signed up for AOL, put his email address book (1,500 addresses) online and ran into problems.

Then, the inevitable call to tech support hell, with the person on the other end of the line that speaks an entirely different version of English. Long and short: our hero lost his 1,500 email addresses when he followed instructions to delete a folder.


So, being a lawyer (who else?), he sued for $5,000. And won. At least so far. AOL promises an appeal, based on prior precedent. Others, though, have different ideas.

The lawyer filed the small claims case in New York, and the judge issued a written decision disagreeing with AOL's argument that venue was proper only in Virginia, where AOL's 91-page agreement says venue is proper.

As Mark Fass of the New York Law Journal noted in the Judge's opinion, "'The general policy of giving effect to forum-selection clauses must yield to the scheme enacted by the Legislature specifically to ensure that civil justice is meaningfully accessible to those seeking the adjudication of small claims,' wrote [Civil Court Judge Debra R.] Samuels in her eight-page decision, Scarcella v. America Online, 1168/04."

Did you catch that? An eight-page, written decision in a small claims case.

You've got to know that Judge knew she was going to be appealed.

As my disclaimer states, I'm not giving legal advice here.

But I may start reading the fine print a little more closely.


Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, September 30, 2004

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