Trials & Litigation

Lawyer who missed deposition while viewing solar eclipse should pay $7,800 sanction, litigant says

  • Print


The moon covers the sun as it creates a total eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, in Cerulean, Kentucky. (Photo by Timothy D. Easley/The Associated Press)

The additional cost of viewing a total solar eclipse in Arkansas could amount to more than $7,800 for a Florida lawyer who missed a deposition with his client.

Lawyer Warren James Pearson of Tallahassee, Florida, said he and his client missed the April 8 deposition in Tampa, Florida, because email notices went to the wrong email folder, Law360 reports.

But Pearson acknowledged that he was in Arkansas to see the solar eclipse when the opposing attorney called him about 15 minutes after the deposition start time, according to an April 10 motion for sanctions.

Now, Pearson’s legal opponent is seeking $7,864 in fees and costs in response to an April 30 sanctions order by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida.

Pearson is representing discrimination plaintiff Jovaughn Noel Smith Wade in a lawsuit against Auto Club Services Inc., which does business as AAA.

The company is represented by Fisher & Phillips, which charges an hourly rate of $344 for the time of its partner handling the case, according to the May 14 motion for attorney fees and costs.

In her sanctions order, Mizelle declined to dismiss Wade’s case as a sanction, saying the missed deposition appears to be based on negligence, rather than willfulness.

Mizelle also said Wade, through his lawyer Pearson, had “disregarded multiple orders and deadlines.”

As excuses for those failures, Mizelle said, Pearson had cited staff shortages, email failures, illness and “the long-planned and impossible-to-delay startup of a restoration construction labor company” for which he is the principal shareholder.

Those excuses will no longer be acceptable, Mizelle said. Pearson’s “pattern of noncompliance is not unnoticed, and the court will not continue to prompt counsel to cure missed deadlines.”

Pearson did not immediately reply to an ABA Journal email and phone message seeking comment.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.