Friday, July 29, 2005

Sue 'em into submission.

If you can't win at the polls you can always sue 'em.

Now I admit that sounds a tad unfair--and in this instance it may turn out to be--but bear with me: suing your competition into submission is one of the favorite tools of corporations like BellSouth and Cox. They tried it in Bristol, Virginia; they are trying it in Utah, and they surely will be trying it here.

The immediate "cause of action," according to the Advertiser, is a line damaged a year ago:
BellSouth attorney Gary Russo filed the lawsuit shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday in 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette. The lawsuit claims LUS was negligent July 28, 2004, when workers damaged buried BellSouth telephone and telecommunications lines near 310 E. Foch St., interrupting services.

Lawsuits for damages must be filed within a year of the incident. Thursday was the deadline for BellSouth to file the lawsuit.
My (perhaps ungenerous) assumption is that following the election loss the good losers over at BellSouth immediately went about looking for ways to harass the winners and sicced the corporate lawyers on the problem. The lawyers built up a laundry list of things they could throw at LUS on the grand old legal principle that if you throw a lot of mud some of it is bound to stick to the wall.

When this old incident appeared on the list some legal eagle no doubt noted that the expiration date was about turn up and rushed down to the courthouse to make sure they didn't lose that bit ammo.

I assume, based on the way these things have worked elsewhere, that the laundry list of unrelated complaints is still being prepared. This is what has happened in Utah where a regional network was hit with an omnibus lawsuit that included line cuts, complaints about poles, complaint about taxes, prices that were lower than the incumbents liked, zoning ordinances that even the incumbents benefited from, and on.. Oh yeah these guys are even suing for attorney's fees for the expense of filing this mishmash of complaints. (article, Utopia's response) (You gotta give credit for moxie with that last one. They must be being paid separately for each complaint they can cram in the lawsuit.)

So I'm looking for a nice fat lawsuit to come lumbering down the road any day now.

The overall strategy is delay, delay, and more delay. The LUS train has picked up a lot of speed. Once it makes it past the Public Service Commission there won't be much stopping it and trying to slow it down will offer the best chance of finding some way, any way, to make sure that Lafayette does not succeed. We can only take cold comfort in BellSouth's demonstrated competence so far.

(One final thought. Cox, with admittedly a much poorer public reputation to start with and so less public relations capital to begin with, is playing it much smarter than BellSouth. They are projecting the image of a company willing to compete. At this stage that's good marketing. BellSouth is playing the bully and spending an advantage over Cox it should be conserving. I'm wondering if this has all gotten personal with Bill Oliver. If so, it's doing the company no good.)

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