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When an Opponent’s Alleged Deception Can (or Cannot) Entitle You to a Reversal of a Court Order in Georgia

Poole Huffman, LLC

When you are involved in commercial litigation, you might be faced with many possible challenges. As one example, what if you believe that your opposition flat-out lied to the court in order to obtain a favorable ruling? This is one example of the many possible unexpected events that may affect your case, and it illustrates why it pays to have experienced and skillful Georgia business litigation counsel handling your case.

A recent federal case that began in Atlanta involved allegations of this type. The underlying lawsuit was itself triggered by the defendant’s alleged deception. According to the complaint, a Pittsburgh-based cybersecurity company managed to download a 1,718-page file stored on a computer owned by an Atlanta-based cancer testing laboratory. The file allegedly contained several patients’ private identity information (like Social Security numbers) and personal medical information. The cybersecurity company, however, told the lab that it had discovered the file on the publicly available internet (specifically, a peer-to-peer filesharing site) and used that claim to try to solicit the lab as a client of its security services, according to the lab.

The lab sued the cybersecurity firm for computer fraud. The case started in state court in Fulton County but later moved to the federal District Court in Atlanta. That court eventually threw out the case because it decided that the cybersecurity entity didn’t have sufficient contacts with Georgia, and, as a result, the court here didn’t have jurisdiction over the defendant. Jurisdiction can be a very important piece of your litigation puzzle. If you are an Atlanta entity or individual, chances are that you’d rather litigate your commercial disputes in Georgia as opposed to some faraway state. However, it is important to make certain that the person or entity that you seek to sue has close enough ties to Georgia to allow you to bring your case here, or you risk having the judge dismiss your case.

The lab later filed a motion asking for something called “relief from a judgment or order.” You can file this type of request if the court has entered an unfavorable order against you, and you want to seek review directly from the District Court. There are several bases upon which the court can reverse the previous order, including mistake, fraud, or newly discovered evidence.

The lab claimed fraud upon the court. It asserted that the cybersecurity company and its lawyers lied about the company’s contacts with Georgia. The District Court ruled against the lab, and the 11th Circuit upheld that ruling. The courts both stated that, in order to prove that an opponent has created a “fraud upon the court,” the law required proof that the opponent’s legal counsel knew that the statements made to the court were not true.

In this case, the cybersecurity company only had one lawyer. The lab did not have the necessary amount of evidence to establish that this lawyer affirmatively knew that the information he submitted to the court about his client’s contacts with Georgia was false. Lacking that evidence, it was not entitled to an order throwing out the previous decision due to fraud upon the court.

Whenever you are faced with commercial litigation, you need to make sure you have experienced counsel representing you who can have you and your case prepared for any twists and turns your case may take. The diligent Atlanta business litigation attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC have been working for many years to give their clients the effective representation their cases deserve. Contact our attorneys online or by calling 404-373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

New Garnishment Ruling: What You Should Know, Atlanta Business Litigation Attorneys Blog, Sept. 29, 2015

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