American Telephone and Telegraph Co. asked a federal court yesterday to overturn MCI Communications Corp.'s $1.8 billion antitrust victory against the Bell System, claiming that at most the jury could have come up with a $2 million damage verdict.
Failing such a decision, AT&T asked U.S. District Court Judge John Grady, who heard the four-month case, to order either a retrial of the MCI suit or decide to cut the jury's damages decision.
"The verdict in this case is a travesty of justice," AT&T said in a brief filed with Grady. The jury's findings "amount to little more than a determination that AT&T failed unerringly to discern and discharge vague and ambiguous obligations in a dynamic and constantly changing regulatory environment," the company said.
AT&T suggested that the jury could not grasp the complexities of either the case or the damage question and may have been prejudiced against the company because of its sheer size.
The damage award "is so grotesquely disproportionate to the jury's findings that it puts into question the very competence of the institution of trial by jury in complex cases involving suits by relatively small companies against large corporations," AT&T said.
The motion comes just 10 days after a jury in Chicago found the telephone company guilty of 10 of 15 charges alleged by MCI, a Washington-based long-distance telephone firm.
In its six-year-old suit, MCI alleged that during the early 1970s AT&T violated federal antitrust laws by failing to provide MCI with necessary hookups and other services.
The filing of the motion yesterday is the first in what could be a lengthy appeals process.
AT&T did not limit its motions yesterday to criticism of the jury's work, but also sharply attacked the judge's handling of the suit, asserting that Grady's rulings on the admission of evidence, jury instructions, regulatory questions and other rulings were improper.
In addition, AT&T labled an MCI study of lost profits as worthless and said that even if it accepted as valid all of the jury's conclusions, "A $2 million verdict is the absolute upper limit of damages that can be supported by the jury's findings." Under the AT&T calculation, MCI then would have been awarded $6 million.