Sprint class certified, but company secrets spared

Steve Korris Jun. 5, 2005, 7:22am

Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron has certified a class action lawsuit over Sprint’s early termination fee, and he has thrown out a protective order that guarded the wireless company’s trade secrets--revenue data, pricing models, internal policies and unique computer systems.

Plaintiff Jessica Hall of Granite City can now send previously confidential Sprint documents to the Federal Communications Commissions.

“The record indicates that Sprint uses standardized means and methods to impose and collect early termination fees and every class members has essentially the same claim against Sprint," Byron stated in his May 20 certification order. "This is a classic case for certification.”

Sprint will have 24 hours to object to whatever Hall intends to send the FCC.

Hall sued Sprint last year claiming that it improperly charged her $150 for canceling her wireless contract before it expired. She asked Byron to certify her as representative of a plaintiff class.

At the outset, Hall and Sprint agreed to keep some documents confidential. They stipulated a protective order, and Byron signed it.

In March, CTIA the Wireless Association petitioned the FCC to block the suit. CTIA argued that the fee fell within the definition of rates, which states may not regulate.

CTIA warned that the suit threatened the rate structure behind the industry’s “ubiquitous deployment, innovative services, affordable prices and soaring subscribership.”

Hall then withdrew her consent to the protective order, telling Byron she did not know when she agreed to it that CTIA would petition the FCC.

She moved to set aside the order so she could provide previously confidential Sprint documents to the FCC.

Sprint opposed the motion, arguing that a stipulation cannot be withdrawn unless it is illegal, fraudulently induced or contrary to public morals. It stated that it did not know when it agreed to the protective order that CTIA would petition the FCC.

Byron signed an order vacating the protective order on May 20. Sprint immediately filed an emergency motion to keep the protective order in force.

On May 25, Byron denied Sprint’s motion, but he modified his May 20 order. He said Hall would identify what she intended to submit to the FCC, and Sprint would have 24 hours to review it and object.

The FCC has requested public comments on the CTIA petition in the Hall case and a CTIA petition on a similar case in South Carolina.

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