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Virtual Paralegalism

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Whew! Most Expensive Secretarial Error on the Planet Fixed

Remember that poor secretary in Pepsi’s legal department, Kathy Henry, who was more or less thrown under the bus by both Pepsi and the media for laying aside a letter that supposedly resulted in a $1.26 billion dollar judgment against Pepsi?

The Court tossed out the judgment on Friday.

In a statement Friday, PepsiCo said it was pleased with the decision and looked forward to defending the case on its merits. No future court dates have been set.

This story motivated bloggers and paralegal listserv members nationwide to weigh in on the extent of Henry’s role in the billion dollar judgment. Some people sniffed that they would never set aside a single letter and helpfully offered to take her job, while others felt by the time the letter got to her desk, bigger fish in the Pepsi corporate pool had dropped the ball (sorry about the mixed metaphor) and should have owned up to their roles in the alleged expiration of the time to answer the plaintiffs’ lawsuit and the resulting jaw-dropping default judgment.

I think we’ve all made mistakes in our careers and should at least feel some empathy for Kathy Henry, whose mistake, regardless of its impact on the final – and brief – judgment, will forever be immortalized by the Internet.

Tip of the Hat to Above the Law.

Related Post: Secretary’s Mistake Blamed for $1.26 Billion Dollar Judgment

2 Responses to Whew! Most Expensive Secretarial Error on the Planet Fixed

  1. I can sympathize. As a young Exec. Asst. several years ago, I filed away a customer complaint after I forwarded it to someone else to handle. Because it was filed away, I forgot to check on it, and the customer sued for $500,000 (the customer was a kid; his dad was an attorney) over a $150 retail transaction. We settled for $1000, I didn't get fired, and you can bet that I *never* made that mistake again!

  2. Nichole, thanks for sharing your own experience. I know I've made mistakes over a 20+ year career, and believe me I'm grateful that – so far – one of them have been featured in Above the Law.

    I still think that Ms. Henry is getting a bum rap via the media. That lawsuit was overlooked and the deadline to respond was missed in numerous ways by Pepsi's other employees, its agents and distributors, long before that single letter hit a secretary's desk.

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Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

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Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

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