January 10, 2008
Million Dollar Minute
Represented by Morrison & Foerster, Toshiba won a commercial dispute with New England Technology. Per the contract, the judge awarded attorneys' fees to Toshiba. As usual, the court gave a 10 day period for Toshiba to file a motion detailing its exact fees. The fees were about $1M. The day the motion was due, a courier left Morrison & Foerster's Orange County office with the motion at 3:30 but hit some unexpectedly ugly OC traffic, causing the courier to arrive at 4:01--1 minute after the office closed. It turns out to be a very costly minute (even vastly exceeding the inflated per-hour fees charged by the big firms). The judge declared the motion too late and, as a result, has refused to award any attorneys' fees. Toshiba is SOL.
For an amusingly different view on late filings, see this classic memo.
On my exams, I tell students that I do not accept late finals--there is no grace period, not even one minute, in which case a late paper results in an F for the course. (I also tell them "NO EXCUSES" so that they don't waste their creativity trying to come up with a brilliant excuse I simply can't refuse). I don't normally like taking such a hard line, but situations like Toshiba's comfort me that there can be draconian consequences for lawyers who are late, and my rules are fair training for that. If you think getting an F in a course is bad, imagine how bummed MoFo feels about being out $1M (which, undoubtedly, they will bear instead of Toshiba).
UPDATE: Howard Bashman weighs in on the matter.
UPDATE 2: WSJ Law Blog has the order.