Facts: Respondent Suzy Dix and other subscribers to America Online’s internet service filed a class action in the state of Washington against I.C.T. Group, Inc., asserting that I.C.T. Group, which is responsible for handling customer service inquiries for America Online, engaged in deceptive practices in violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (Washington Revised Code §19.86). The trial court dismissed the class action on grounds that the forum selection clause in America Online’s service agreement requires that any claims arising from customers’ use of the service be brought in Virginia. Upon appeal, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the forum selection clause is unenforceable insofar as the selected forum of Virginia does not permit class actions, rendering the forum selection clause contrary to the public policy underlying the Consumer Protection Act. I.C.T. Group appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Question(s): Are forum selection clauses requiring that litigation be brought in states that do not permit class actions contrary to the public policy underlying the Consumer Protection Act and therefore unenforceable?
Conclusion: Justice Madsen’s opinion for a unanimous Court affirmed the Washington Court of Appeals and remanded the case for trial, concluding that the forum selection clause is contrary to the public policy underlying the Consumer Protection Act. In particular, the Court held that class actions are an important tool for carrying out the Consumer Protection Act’s enforcement scheme given that it would otherwise be economically unfeasible for claims of small value such as Dix’s to be brought.
Docket No. 77101-4
Petitioner: I.C.T. Group, Inc.
(Counsel: James B. King, Daniel T. Donovan, John C. O’Quinn, and Eugene Assaf)
Respondent: Suzy Dix
(Counsel: Richard W. Kuhling, David Laurence Bloom, William John Schroeder, Gregory C. Hesler, Paine Hamblen, and Michael David Kinkley)
Argument: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 1:30pm
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, July 12th, 2007
Prevailing Party: Suzy Dix (Respondent)
Court: Alexander3 Court (2005-2007)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form.