Fifth Circuit Knocks Out Match.com Class Action
Customers go to Match.com looking for love, or at least a fling. But a group of class action plaintiffs lawyers spent four years looking for a payout from Match.com LLC, arguing that the company made it "virtually impossible for legitimate, paying subscribers to find each other, let alone develop a relationship."
Now, thanks to the online dating company's lawyers at Baker Botts, the last of the cases is finally kaput. In a decision released Friday and dated Oct. 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit tossed the sole remaining claim in a proposed class action brought by Match.com subscribers in Texas, ruling that the litigation had gone on long enough.
The plaintiffs, represented at the Fifth Circuit by Jeffrey Norton of New York's Newman Ferrara and Dallas lawyer Roger Claxton, claimed in their November 2011 complaint that Match.com had kept millions of expired profiles on its sites and permitted fake profiles to be posted. The allegations included breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith, and deceptive trade practices under Texas law.
According to Baker Botts' appellate brief, several of the same lawyers previously sued Match.com unsuccessfully in 2010 and early 2011 in New York, California, and Texas federal court, and they've also filed a similar suit in state court in Dallas. (The first suit was brought by Norah Hart of New York's Treuhaft & Zakarin, and Hart remained a driving force in the litigation until she was sanctioned in the Dallas case and barred by the Fifth Circuit from serving as class counsel.) Altogether, the Baker Botts brief said, the plaintiffs have filed 17 separate complaints and amended complaints asserting more or less the same allegations against Match.com.
Now there's nothing left. The Fifth Circuit panel ruled that the plaintiffs had already had "a fair opportunity" to make their case and repeatedly failed. The plaintiffs' remaining unconscionable conduct claim, the court concluded, was just a repackaged version of their unsuccessful breach of contract claim.
Match.com's lead counsel, Baker Botts' Shira Yoshor, said she hoped the ruling would finally put an end to the litigation. "We believe the district court and the appellate panel got it right," she said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs couldn't immediately be reached for comment.