Friday, April 9, 2010

4th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment Against Party That Failed to Respond to Summary Judgment Due to Computer Problems

This opinion in Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corporation LLC, --- F.3d ---, No. 09-1167 (4th Cir. March 26, 2010), is courtesy of Technology and Marketing Law Blog, by way of Abnormal Use.

Appellees filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, notice of which was sent to counsel for the Appellant via the Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system utilized by the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina (and functionally similar to that used by the District Court of South Carolina). After Appellant failed to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment, the District Court granted the Appellees' motion and dismissed the case.

In seeking relief from the entry of summary judgment, Appellant claimed that its counsel did not receive the notice of filing due to computer problems in his office-- a virus infecting that computer system and the expiration of the firm's website domain name registration.

Upholding the District Court's decision to deny relief to Appellant, the 4th Circuit Panel emphasized that "Appellant’s failure to receive notice of the motion resulted from his counsel’s conscious choice not to take any action with respect to his computer troubles." Specifically, 1) counsel knew the previously established deadline to file dispositive motions; 2) counsel knew of his office computer problems and the fact that notices of filing would come from the District Court electronically; and 3) neither the Appellees nor the District Court were made aware of the particular computer problems.

The lesson from this opinion appears to be fairly clear: since the CM/ECF is the official (and sole) method by which notice is provided in the federal court system, if a law firm experiences computer troubles that might compromise the ability to receive email, then it pays to log in to the CM/ECF (or take other appropriate action) in order to monitor the progress of your cases.