Sprint, Qwest, Other Telecoms Face New Multi-Billion Dollar Threat

Dec 14, 2004, 00:00 ET from Ackerson Kauffman Fex, P.C.

    CHICAGO, Dec. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- A federal appeals court in Chicago has
 handed down a decision that exposes Sprint, Qwest, Level 3, and Williams to
 more than $3 billion of liability in numerous federal and state class actions
 pending around the country.  The decision reversed a controversial nationwide
 class action settlement favored by the telecom companies.  The order also
 lifts an injunction to allow other class action lawsuits to go forward.
 Several of those class actions are certified and set for trial.
     The appeals court decision renews the question of how much the telecom
 giants must pay landowners for the right to install and use fiber-optic cable
 on railroad rights of way.  The four defendant companies claim to have
 installed fiber-optic cable on more than 36,000 miles of railroad rights of
 way, comprising their core infrastructure.  But according to landowners they
 are trespassers.  More than 30 class actions around the country claim that the
 subsurface rights belong to the landowners and that the telecom companies are
 intentional trespassers.
     Landowners say Sprint faces the largest potential damage judgment.  "Our
 experts have pegged the value of the real estate as greater than $20 per foot
 for future use alone," said Nels Ackerson, one of the landowners' attorneys.
 "Sprint has 16,000 miles of fiber.  Like the other telecom companies, Sprint
 will have to pay for both past and future use, as well as punitive damages,"
 he continued.
     Until this decision came down, some landowners' attorneys had supported
 the settlement.  Irwin Levin, an attorney who supported the settlement, said,
 "We look forward to aggressively pursuing the litigation across the country.
 All of the landowners' attorneys agree that the defendants will have to pay
 much more to landowners than they agreed earlier."
     More than twenty law firms representing landowners were represented in a
 meeting in Chicago today to plan the next stages of the litigation.
     Contact:  Nels Ackerson, 202-833-8833 (nackerson@ackersonlaw.com)
               Eric Bolton, 202-833-8833 (ebolton@ackersonlaw.com)
               Henry J. Price, 317-633-8787 (hprice@price-law.com)
               Irwin B. Levin, 317-636-6481 (ilevin@cohenandmalad.com)

SOURCE Ackerson Kauffman Fex, P.C.