Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another case of perverse justice, the Ohio Supreme Court way

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2008 at 10:55 AM

The last time we checked in on the $218 million Smart Media case, the company was trying to get the Ohio Supreme Court to finally hear its claims of injustice. Back in 1996, the Virginia company had developed a hand-held bar code scanner that would not only allow customers to scan their own grocery items as they shopped, but offer up special deals among competing brands. The company figured that Akron's Telxon Corporation would be its best bet for a manufacturer, since Telxon has been a leader in the bar code scanner industry for years... Telxon agreed to manufacture and market the invention. But after Smart Media spent years and millions of dollars in development, Telxon didn’t keep its part of the bargain, leaving Smart Media high and dry. A Summit County jury eventually awarded Smart Media $218 million in damages – the biggest civil suit payout in the county’ history. But what Smart Media didn’t realize is that Telxon’s CEO, Bob Meyerson, had purchased influential friends in just the right places. Telxon appealed the award and won, thanks to Appeals Court Judge William Batchelder, whose coffers had been well fed by Meyerson for years. He ruled in Telxon’s favor and overturned Smart Media’s jackpot. Hoping that justice still resided somewhere in Ohio, Smart Media appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court to have Batchelder disqualified and his decision reexamined. The company also made sure to check out which justices had benefited from Meyerson’s generosity and asked those judges, including Justice Maureen O’Connor and Terrence O’Donnell, to recuse themselves. While O’Connor refused to recuse herself from the case, O’Donnell decided to sit this one out. Maybe, just maybe, Ohio justices could be fair and impartial, Smart Media believed. Unfortunately, that’s just not how this state works. Today, the Ohio Supreme Court announced that it would refuse to hear Smart Media’s case, even though a previous Appeals Court panel revealed that the company had been wronged at the hands of Batchelder, but that Ohio simply had no remedy for its case. “Our client is obviously upset,” says Brian Kenney, a lawyer representing Smart Media’s co-plaintiff, William Dupre. “There was unanimous agreement on [an appeals court] panel that our client had suffered a wrong. Unfortunately, the majority of the panel concluded that Ohio had no remedy for his injury. We are troubled the Ohio Supreme Court would allow the panel’s decision to stand as written.” Kenney says that they are now considering taking the case to the United States Supreme Court. “Within the context of the United States constitution, it is difficult to understand how this doesn’t amount to a denial of our client’s right to an impartial tribunal,” he says. -- Denise Grollmus

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