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Attorney Tries to Bring SexSearch Suit Into Class Action

Attorney Tries to Bring SexSearch Suit Into Class Action
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Apr 9, 2007 9:54 AM PDT    Text size: 
LAKEWOOD, Ohio — In a case that underlies the inherent risks to social networking and dating sites that allow users to post their own content, a lawsuit involving one of the adult industry’s best known brands could be taking another turn.

The plaintiff’s attorney in the case involving SexSearch.com over claims that a customer was allowed to chat online with a minor and later had sex with her said that he will attempt to bring the case into class action.

“This is the next step,” plaintiff’s counsel Dean Boland told XBIZ last week.

In court filings obtained by XBIZ, the plaintiff has asked from one of the defendants named in the suit that they reveal through discovery all customer records, including credit card data, payment history, as well as all of the domain names the defendant owns.

That data could open a floodgate for class-action litigation involving anyone who has ever visited SexSearch.com

Boland, who represents the John Doe plaintiff, also said that the class-action angle would be the tip of the iceberg in claims against the company and its partners.

“We plan on notifying attorney generals in several states regarding the case,” he said. “When a person signs up for SexSearch, they are promised that they are dealing with an all-adult community. There is a promise that everyone is 18.”

Boland contends Hollywood, Calif.-based SexSearch and its partners had a duty to filter out participation with minors.

One of the law firms representing six of the defendants wrote in a memo to the court that the request through discovery is “obviously vague, overbroad and needlessly invasive.”

“Such information is obviously irrelevant to, and will not lead to, admissible evidence regarding any of plaintiff's claims on the merits, all of which involve plaintiff's attempt to recover damages from the SexSearch.com website operator for the harm plaintiff claims he suffered when plaintiff sexually molested a child,” said the memo written by attorneys from Columbus, Ohio-based Kravitz, Brown and Dortch.

The plaintiff, whose name or age was not revealed in the complaint, said he was tricked into believing that the minor was in fact over the age 18 because she posted information that stated so, and that SexSearch represented to him that it verifies the age of all members who use their site.

More than a month after having consensual intercourse with the minor at her home, the man was arrested and charged with a variety of charges of unlawful conduct with a minor, the complaint said. His criminal trial, where he could face up to 15 years in prison, has not yet commenced.

The 14-year-old minor, whose profile was active on SexSearch until it was removed by her parents, included her photo on the site, as well as listings that said she was looking for a “1 on 1 sexual encounter,” and that her ideal match included her interest in a male “who can last for a long time.”

The suit’s long list of defendants include some well-known adult industry brand names in addition to SexSearch, including Playboy, Jenna Jameson, Club Jenna, Moniker Online Services, Manic Media and Stallion.com.

Boland, who contends that there isn’t any “substantial” age-verification systems on any of the Internet’s social-networking sites, noted that there are probably deep pockets for a class-action suit.

“SexSearch says its has 10 million members,” he said. “We figure that they bring in $200 million a month. That would bring their annual revenue at $2.4 billion.”

Boland also warned that other social-networking companies could soon find themselves involved through litigation over age-verification.

“Adult Friendfinder — they are next,” he said. “The whole industry is going to be rocked.”

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