United States District Court, D. Maryland
CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated, Plaintiff,
AVID LIFE MEDIA, INC. and AVID DATING LIFE, INC. d/b/a ASHLEY MADISON, Defendants.
WHITFIELD BRYSON & MASON, LLP Gary E. Mason Esfand Y.
Nafisi CUNEO GILBERT & LADUCA, LLP Charles LaDuca Brendan
Thompson THE BRAUNSTEIN LAW FIRM, PLLC Michael L. Braunstein
Counsel for Plaintiff.
JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
Christopher Russell (“Plaintiff” or
“Russell”), on behalf of himself and all others
similarly situated, by his undersigned counsel, alleges
against Avid Life Media, Inc. and Avid Dating Life, Inc.
d/b/a Ashley Madison (collectively “Ashley
Madison” or “Defendants”), the following
upon personal knowledge as to his own acts, and upon
information and belief, based on the investigation conducted
by his counsel, as to all other allegations:
OF THE ACTION
Defendants operate the Ashley Madison dating site:
AshleyMadison.com. Defendants operate AshleyMadison.com to
help individuals find other individuals looking for sexual
encounters and target married individuals for their
matchmaking services. Ashley Madison's slogan is
“Life is short. Have an Affair” and Defendants
proclaim that “Ashley Madison is the most famous name
in infidelity and married dating.”
July 2015, Defendants learned that their databases and
computer systems had been hacked. A week later, the hackers,
calling themselves the “Impact Team, ” revealed
hacking Ashley Madison servers, downloading all of the
users' personal information, and threatened to release
the users' personal information if the site was not shut
down. On August 20, 2015, after Defendants did not shut down
their site, the hacked data and information was released.
released information demonstrates that Ashley Madison went to
extreme measures to fraudulently lure in and profit from
customers. Defendants fraudulent and deceitful actions
include, but are not limited to:
• Marketing that the site had 5.5 million female
profiles, when only a small percentage of the profiles
belonged to actual women who used the site;
• Hiring employees whose jobs were to create thousands
of fake female profiles; and
• Creating over 70, 000 female bots to send male users
millions of fake messages.
Defendants' fraudulent and deceitful acts were designed
to willfully and knowingly mislead customers into signing the
customer agreement, joining the website and spending money.
Defendants' deceit and fraud succeeded. According to
Defendants, Ashley Madison has approximately 37 million
registered users. It is ranked by visits among the top 500
websites in the world, top 30 amongst adult websites, and had
124.5 million visits in June 2015. Ashley Madison
substantially contributed to the $115 million in gross
revenue for Defendant Avid Life Media in 2014, resulting in
pretax profits of $55 million.
Defendants' deceptive and fraudulent conduct has damaged
Plaintiff and the Class, and unjustly enriched Defendants.
Plaintiff Christopher Russell is an adult individual and a
resident and citizen of Maryland. Mr. Russell brings this
proceeding in an individual capacity and on behalf of all
others similarly situated.
Defendant Avid Life Media, Inc. is a corporation organized
and existing under the laws of Ontario, Canada, with its
principal place of business and headquarters in Toronto,
Canada. Defendant Avid Life Media owns and operates various
companies that operate online dating websites including the
website operated under the trademark of Ashley Madison.
Defendant Avid Dating Life, Inc. d/b/a Ashley Madison is a
corporation organized and existing under the laws of Ontario,
Canada, with its principal place of business in Toronto,
Canada. Defendant Avid Dating Life owns and is regularly
engaged in the business of operating online dating websites,
This Court may assert diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332 because the matter in controversy exceeds $75,
000, exclusive of interest and costs, and Plaintiff resides
in Maryland and Defendants are Canadian business entities.
This Court may assert jurisdiction under the Class Action
Fairness Act because the acts occurred in Maryland, Plaintiff
is a citizen of the State of Maryland, Defendants are not
citizens of the State of Maryland and the amount in
controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000.
case is properly brought in this district because Defendants
engage in business in the district.
the extent Defendants claim an individual arbitration
requirement exists, such requirement is unconscionable and
unenforceable because Defendants fraudulently induced
Plaintiff and the Class into entering the agreement and
Plaintiff and the class cannot vindicate their rights in
BACKGROUND AND SUBSTANTIVE ALLEGATIONS
AshleyMadison.com is owned by Avid Life Media, a
privately-held Canadian corporation founded by its CEO Noel
Biderman, which owns various companies in business of
operating online dating websites, including CougarLife.com
Defendants operate AshleyMadison.com to facilitate sexual
encounters for people who are married or are in committed
relationships. Defendants market AshleyMadison.com with the
slogan, “Life is short. Have an Affair” and
target married/involved people for their matchmaking
services. Defendants proclaim that “Ashley Madison is
the most famous name in infidelity and married dating”
and “the most successful website for finding an affair
and cheating partners.” Defendants represent that
“[t]housands of cheating wives and cheating husbands
sign up everyday looking for an affair.”
Defendants market AshleyMadision.com to United States
consumers and those outside the United States. The website
has over 37 million users in 46 countries. It is rated the
twentieth most popular adult website in the United States. It
is ranked by visits among the top 500 websites in the world
and had 124.5 million visits in June 2015. Defendants market
the website through television, radio, billboard, and
internet advertisements, many of which include its founder
and CEO Noel Biderman as the website's spokesperson.
Ashley Madison's revenue model relies upon the purchase
of “credits” by users that are used to interact
with one another, as opposed to a subscription-based model.
To initiate a conversation with another user, one must
“pay” five credits. Users buy credits from the
website and enter their credit or debit card information to
buy credits. Various means of interacting with other users,
such as having instant messaging, online chats, or sending
messages to prospective matches, cost different amounts of
Ashley Madison substantially contributed to the $115 million
in gross revenue for Defendant Avid Life Media in 2014,
resulting in pretax profits of $55 million.
Defendants Represent Having Numerous Active Female
Defendants represent that:
a) “Ashley Madison is the most famous name in
infidelity and married dating;”
b) It is “the most successful website for finding an
affair and cheating partners;”
c) “Thousands of cheating wives and cheating husbands
signup everyday looking for an affair;” and
d) Ashley Madison had 5.5 million women members.
The Hacking Of Ashley Madison Reveals It Created Fake Female
Profiles And Communication For Virtually All Of Its Purported
Female Users To Fraudulently Induce Customers To Join And
Ashley Madison Gets Hacked
July 12, 2015, Defendants learned that their computer systems
had been hacked by notification on each of their
employees' internal computers greeting screen.
Included in the on-screen message was the statement that
“[w]e have taken over all systems in your entire office
and production domains, all customer information databases,
source code repositories, financial records, emails.”
or about July 19, 2015, a third party calling themselves the
“Impact Team” issued an online announcement that
it had hacked into the Ashley Madison servers and downloaded
the personal information of approximately all users of Ashley