AOL class action goes forward

Attorneys set back into motion a class-action lawsuit against AOL based on access problems subscribers experienced last year.

Attorneys in New York and Washington have set back into motion a class-action lawsuit against America Online (AOL) based on access problems the ISP's subscribers experienced last year.

Attorneys representing parties who had filed several class-action suits across the country last year filed what is called a "Consolidated and Amended Class Action complaint" in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on January 26.

AOL, the leading online service, faced a severely clogged network for several months last year after converting its service from strictly hourly rates to a flat-rate model in December 1996. Members suddenly were logging on for longer periods, and many attempting to dial in got continuous busy signals.

As a result, attorneys throughout the country filed class-action lawsuits on behalf of subscribers--many of whom used the service for business purposes--and others, such as AOL contractors.

At the same time, attorneys general from several states also got in on the mix, ultimately reaching a legal settlement with AOL on behalf of their constituents. A federal judge had put the other class-action suits on hold until the attorneys general case, based in Illinois, was legally settled. But the hold--legally called a stay--expired on December 1, 1997, reactivating the other class-action suits, according to United States District Judge Leoni Brinkema.

AOL spokeswoman Wendy Goldberg reiterated that the suit announced today by the lawfirms of Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll and Pomerantz Haudek Block & Grossman were not new.

"This is not a new lawsuit," she said. "This case is part of the class-action suits filed over a year ago, and we expect this case to be resolved in connection with those cases."