A judge on Tuesday refused to throw out a lawsuit by two Democratic political consultants who allege that The Huffington Post's founders stole the idea for the online news website from them.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Ramos denied a motion by lawyers for the media company to dismiss the lawsuit, meaning that the case will now likely move to the discovery phase of fact-finding by both sides.
Consultants Peter Daou and James Boyce sued in November 2010, alleging they had originally come up with the plan for the site's blend of blogs by prominent contributors, news aggregation and original content.
Daou and Boyce said they discussed their plans with Huffington Post co-founders Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer in 2004, and believed they were partners. The two consultants claimed they were cut out of the deal after the co-founders raised millions of dollars to launch and develop the site. They seek unspecified damages.
When the lawsuit was filed, Huffington and Lerer said in a statement that the claims were "pure fantasy."
AOL Inc. purchased The Huffington Post for $315 million in February.
On Tuesday, AOL Huffington Post Media Group spokesman Mario Ruiz said in statement that although the judge did not throw out the plaintiffs' claims as they had requested, "we remain confident that we will prevail in proving that the lawsuit has no merit."
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Partha P. Chattoraj, said the defense team was grateful for the opportunity to make its case to the judge.
"We look forward to proceeding with discovery, as the court ordered," he said.