We have said it often, but it bears repetition, “don’t get greedy.” Although it may be difficult for the layperson to believe, even attorneys sometimes forget this advice. Fortunately for the attorneys, when they do forget, it is often not they who suffer – the clients do. (Goodman Ball, Inc. et al. v. Mach II Aviation, Inc. et al.)
Goodman Ball sued Mach II for patent infringement. As is routine in such cases, the Court scheduled a “case management conference,” whereat a schedule is set for the various steps leading up to – and including – trial of the matter. “Local rules,” i.e. the rules specific to the courts of that district, state that “requests to participate in the conference by telephone must be filed and served at least 7 days before the conference …” At 8:23 a.m. on the day of the conference, counsel for Mach II filed an “unopposed” motion – it was “unopposed” because counsel for Goodman Ball had no prior knowledge of it – to appear telephonically at the 11:00 a.m. conference. This motion was promptly denied.
The Goodman Ball attorney appeared at the conference. The Mach II attorney did not. The Goodman Ball attorney thereupon filed a motion for sanctions, seeking one-half of the $8,321.83 in fees and costs he had allegedly incurred as a result of his opponent’s absence.
Motion denied. The Court noted that the conference had gone forward without defense counsel present and, thus, counsel for plaintiff was not prejudiced. “Ordinarily, reasonable expenses incurred as a result of a party’s noncompliance with rules would have been granted. Plaintiff’s counsel, however, has grossly overreached in his request for sanctions by asking for over four thousand dollars. It cannot be justified and is not justified. As a result of this greed, no sanctions will be awarded.” So, Goodman Ball was not reimbursed for the fees and costs billed by its attorney. At least the attorney didn’t suffer.
THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: If an attorney gets greedy, his client may suffer.
Unfortunately, it's instances like this one that tend to contribute to the fear and loathing with with the general public often holds attorneys.