A cautionary tale renewed in the age of Internet and electronic court filings came out of a decision of the Federal Circuit in the patent infringement case of Two-Way Media LLC v. AT&T Inc., case number 2014-1302. In this case, the Circuit Court upheld a district court decision denying AT&T relief from its lawyers’ (Sidley Austin) failure to timely file a notice of appeal from a $40M verdict against AT&T, after the denial of AT&T’s four motions for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL).
The twist here is that the court clerk mistakenly mislabeled the district court’s orders denying three of the JMOLs, calling them orders granting the motion to file sealed documents, which had been filed contemporaneously with the JMOLs. However, the clerk correctly labeled the order denying the remaining JMOL and correctly labeled Plaintiff’s Bill of Costs that was filed.
All 18 of AT&T’s counsel and their assistants got the Notices of Electronic Filing (NEFs) for these filings but no one read them. If they had, they would have been alerted that the district court had denied all of their JMOLs and that the time to appeal was running.
Subsequently, the clerk corrected the mis-labeled NEFs, but did not send a new NEF. A motion for relief was denied by the district court and upheld by the Circuit Court.
The take away is that, in this day and age of electronic filings, a party is charged with the knowledge of what is in the court docket and should be monitoring every NEF in a case. Even with the error of the clerk, the party must be aware of all items on the court’s docket regarding the case. Here, the Bill of Costs being filed was an obvious tipoff that a judgment was entered and the time to appeal had begun.