A federal judge has ruled that Ashley Madison users can sue the dating website for cheaters, but only if they reveal their real names.
A 2015 data breach outed many users, leaving them eager for legal recourse.
Eastern District of Missouri Judge John A. Ross, who is presiding over a class action lawsuit against Ashley Madison, handed the plaintiffs both a victory and a defeat.
The good news is that the federal judge will allow the case to proceed.
The bad news is that he also ruled that Ashley Madison users had not demonstrated that the risks involved in revealing their identities were high enough to justify overriding the public’s right to a free and open court.
Judge Ross also noted that not all of the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit had used the cheating service under a pseudonym.
The anonymous users have until June 3 to decide whether they wish to out themselves as potential cheaters and proceed. In the meantime, Judge Ross has to make a decision on another aspect of the case.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs wish to use communications between executives at Ashley Madison and their attorneys to establish that the company used fake female profiles to convince people to join the website, Ars Technica reported.
Avid Life Media, the owner of Ashley Madison, claims that these conversations are protected under attorney-client privilege. However, the lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that the data can be included due to the “crime-fraud” exception.
For the crime-fraud exception to be valid, the plaintiff’s attorneys will have to prove that the lawyers and Avid Media were communicating “with the intention of committing or covering up a crime or fraud,” according to Ars Technica.
A massive class action lawsuit was brought against Ashley Madison following a hack of their website in August. Up to two dozen lawyers representing both current and former users gathered in St. Louis, Missouri to consolidate the litigation against Avid Life Media.
The data breach resulted in the information of millions of users being leaked on the internet, including that of many who had paid $19 for a “Full Delete” option that was meant to remove all identifying information from the Ashley Madison website. However, the data breach revealed that “Full Delete” had not deleted all that much after all, leaving those seeking secret extramarital affairs exposed.