E-Filing Wins The Race To The Courthouse

Signalife, Inc. v. Rubbermaid, Inc., 2008 NCBC 3 (N.C. Super. Ct. February 8, 2008)(Diaz)

Signalife sued Rubbermaid in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. The lawyers for Signalife camped out on the steps of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse and filed Signalife's lawsuit literally one minute after the courthouse opened, at 9:01 a.m.

Rubbermaid's lawyers, who slept in, sued Signalife in the Western District of North Carolina on the same day.

So, under the settled principle that "where a prior action is pending between the same parties for the same subject matter in a court within the state having jurisdiction, the prior action serves to abate the subsequent action," Signalife was entitled to go forward with its lawsuit, right?

Not here. The Rubbermaid lawyers had electronically filed their complaint in federal court eight hours earlier, at 12:25 a.m. Judge Diaz held that he would apply "the literal, chronological meaning of 'first filed,'" and ruled that priority would belong to Rubbermaid. In reaching that conclusion, the Court rejected cases holding that cases filed on the same day should be deemed to have been filed simultaneously. 

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