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When Dawn Martin opened her LexisNexis bill about two years ago, it smarted something awful. The damage, incurred in about two months’ time: more than $37,000. Martin, a Virginia-based solo practitioner specializing in civil rights and equal employment opportunity law, says her paralegal inadvertently journeyed beyond the services included in her $326 per month plan while researching a case. Her paralegal, Miguel Gallardo, who is also her fiance, says he didn’t see any warning that he was accessing content outside the plan. After more than a year of back-and-forth with the company, which Martin says initially indicated a willingness to forgive the fees, she balked at a payment plan requiring her to fork over the full $37,000 and change. Lexis handed her account over to an Ohio-based collection agency, Diversified Credit Services Inc., and in December 2006 the company sued her in D.C. Superior Court. She wasn’t served, she says, until April 10. The suit was dismissed last week — principally because her contract with Lexis carried a binding arbitration clause — and now the company, represented by Richard Kind of Baltimore-based Kind & Dashoff, faces possible sanctions for filing frivolously. LexisNexis, in an e-mailed statement, said the company would not comment on pending litigation, but it said numerous warnings are activated when a customer ventures outside his plan, including a dollar sign next to the content, a warning message after the source is selected, and an icon indicating the cost for using the source.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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