Chief Judge Claude Hilton at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found on Dec. 24 that AOL had failed to show that Virginia had jurisdiction over the defendants simply because the company is located there and the E-mails had gone through its computers.
Seth Berenzweig, a lawyer for the defendants, said the decision will impact all lawsuits brought in Virginia against out-of-state defendants for sending spam E-mail.
More than 50 percent of all worldwide Internet traffic passes through Virginia because AOL and 1,300 other Internet service providers or technology companies are located there.
In AOL's view, the dismissal was based on a technicality related to the level of detail needed in the complaint, according to spokesman Nicholas Graham. He said the company was prepared to amend its suit.
"This ruling also does nothing to prevent these defendants from being sued in Florida, where they live," Graham said.
This summer, Virginia introduced a tough anti-spam law, and it was used in December to indict two North Carolina men. They became the first people in the country charged with felonies for allegedly sending junk E-mail.