The GTL business model required any individual who wished to communicate by telephone with an incarcerated person to first deposit money in a GTL account, from which the cost of each call was deducted. However, as noted by the judge in the Georgia litigation, “if a GTL customer has not had any activity in her account in ninety days, GTL takes whatever money is left in the account.” Plaintiffs alleged that this practice was not disclosed to them.
Federal court rules provide for “discovery,” in which each party can submit written questions, or “interrogatories,” and take sworn depositions of individuals with knowledge of the subject matter of the litigation, an expensive process. GTL produced thousands of pages of difficult-to-analyze documents, materials and testimony that purported to show that individuals depositing money were told by an automated message that the funds “may expire.” That turned out to be false, and the court determined it to be misleading.
In their motion for sanctions, Plaintiffs stated that they “only recently discovered that the ‘may expire’ statement does not currently exist or play on GTL’s (recorded call).” GTL responded by saying it “had produced 92,779 pages of documents,” and that Plaintiffs had “surreptitiously” recorded a call. The court required additional documents from GTL, which the court reviewed prior to issuing its decision.
Plaintiffs’ counsel filed a motion that said: “Plaintiffs allege in their Motion for Sanctions that GTL withheld key evidence, presented false testimony and false statements to this Court, and violated the Court’s Discovery Order in an attempt to deceive Plaintiffs and the Court. Plaintiffs contend that GTL has conducted discovery in bad faith and perpetrated a fraud on the court. Plaintiffs request that the Court: strike GTL’s answer and hold GTL in default; enter an order establishing the existence and terms of GTL’s contracts with Plaintiffs and the members of the class; or, alternatively, preclude GTL from offering evidence regarding the ‘may expire’ statement.”
The court agreed with plaintiffs: It found “by clear and convincing evidence that GTL intentionally provided false information in the course of discovery, falsely verified interrogatory answers, and provided false testimony (in a deposition). And when GTL was dissatisfied with a portion of (that deposition), it converted that testimony to personal testimony that would not bind the company. GTL also intentionally relied on material misrepresentations in briefings, argument, and other testimony before the Court. GTL violated this Court’s June 25 discovery order by presenting a witness who was unprepared to answer questions and altered this testimony after-the-fact, depriving Plaintiffs of Court-ordered informed corporate testimony. GTL continued its strategy of obfuscation at the sanctions hearing.”
“GTL’s woefully incomplete production, false testimony and misleading interrogatory responses have affected the integrity of the legal process,” wrote District Judge Amy Totenberg. “If GTL were able to escape any real consequences for its obfuscating course of discovery and litigation posturing, the discovery and judicial process would be stripped of all integrity and functionality.”
The court issued the following order: “The Court finds that Defendant poisoned and burdened the entire discovery and litigation process with its conduct, and the Court therefore ORDERS Defendant to pay Plaintiffs for all attorney’s fees and costs incurred in discovery, class certification briefing, and litigation of sanctions issues. If the Parties are unable to reach an agreement within twenty (20) days of conclusion of the mediation, Plaintiff may file a Motion for Attorney’s Fees.”
Plaintiffs were represented by a team of Atlanta area lawyers: Andrew Raymond Lynch, Attorney at Law; James Radford of Radford & Keebaugh, LLC; and Ashley Christina Brown, James William Cobb, Michael Caplan, and Timothy Brandon Waddell of Caplan Cobb LLP.
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|Cite||Case No. 1:15-cv-986-AT, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ga.)|