AT&T On The Hook For $40M Because It Didn’t Read Legal Documents Closely

One might think that a company making upwards of $134 billion in a year would pay its lawyers to read everything that comes their way very closely. And yet somehow, AT&T’s legal counsel missed information in legal documents that could put the company on the hook for $40 million in a patent-infringement case.

AT&T missed a deadline to appeal a jury verdict for $27.5 million plus interest that was won by a company called Two-Way Media LLC, that had said AT&T used its technology for tracking what users watch on streaming video services, reports Bloomberg.

Though AT&T has at least lawyers, somehow all of them missed a faulty court docket notice that had said the trial judge had granted AT&T’s request to seal some documents in the case. But when reading the actual order, it showed the judge had denied AT&T’s request to overturn the jury’s verdict. That meant AT&T had 30 days from that time to appeal the decision and its $40 million payment.

AT&T wasn’t notified that the docket entry was corrected, and by the time someone noticed, it had already been 51 days. The company argues that it was tardy to the party because of “excusable neglect,” citing the incorrect docket entry.

Too bad, so sad, said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, siding with the trial judge who had noted that there were at least 18 lawyers and assistants who were given the information on when the deadline was, and refused to extend the deadline.

The appeals panel agreed in a 2-1 ruling, saying that District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio acted within his rights when saying it was “inexcusable for AT&T’s multiple counsel to fail to read all of the underlying orders they received, or — at minimum — to monitor the docket for any corrections or additional rulings.”

AT&T can now ask the panel to reconsider its decision or request it be heard before all active judges on the court. Failing that, the company can take the case to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS upheld a default judgment against a company that didn’t respond to a lawsuit that had been lost on legal assistant’s desk back in 1998.

AT&T Has to Pay $40 Million Because It Didn’t Read a Document [Bloomberg]

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