Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Verizon's $32 Million Judgment...Litigation Lottery?

Here's the scenario: some company apparently was "cybersquatting" Verizon's trademarks (illegally registering domain names--633 of them--that were either identical or similar to Verizon's). So Verizon sues, according to this article and is granted a $32 million "default judgment." Definition: a judgment granted to the party bringing a lawsuit when the party being sued doesn't timely answer the complaint.

Newsworthy? Probably not. Will it stick? Perhaps not. Many of these "default judgments" are vacated if there are compelling reasons for not answering the complaint. And if Verizon was truly harmed to the tune of $32 million and can prove it, that's the purpose of our civil justice system--to have our court system, without government interference, provide a mechanism for making wrongdoers accountable commensurate with the harm they cause.

But here's what is newsworthy. If this were an injured plaintiff who sued Verizon and obtained the same result, we'd be reading press releases and quotes from groups like "The Institute For Legal Reform," a multimillion dollar wing of The Chamber Of Commerce, railing about how businesses are being held hostage by "lawsuit abuse" and how the tort system is a "litigation lottery" and other drivel.

But since this was a large corporation seeking to enforce its legal rights, somehow I don't think we'll be hearing from The Institute on this one any time soon. Businesses exercising their rights and suing for millions-- good. Injured citizens suing corporate America--bad. It's all you need to know about "The Institute's" position.

No comments: