The 'Spam Filter Ate My Notice' Reasoning Convinces Court To Extend Deadline

from the but,-don't-think-you'll-be-so-lucky dept

I have to admit that I’ve been noticing a lot more false positives in my email spam filter lately. Fewer actual spam messages have been getting through, but a few too many legitimate emails have been getting caught. Apparently, I’m not the only one. A group of folks who were suing AIG, and lost on summary judgment, have successfully extended the deadline to appeal after claiming that they missed the initial notice (which indicated when they needed to appeal) because it got stuck in the spam filter. The court noted that this excuse has failed in the past on numerous instances, but because this was the only real evidence of a mistake, rather than a pattern of similar mistakes, it extended the deadline. However, it did “beat up” on the lawyers as well. So, generally speaking, it’s probably not a very good excuse to use… but every once in a while it might just work.

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Comments on “The 'Spam Filter Ate My Notice' Reasoning Convinces Court To Extend Deadline”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The Real WTF

What is bizarre is that these notices are sent by email. Email is not a reliable delivery method, and was never designed as such. It only seems reliable because early mail servers tried really hard to not lose email (the sending MTA only erasing the sent email after receiving confirmation from the receiving MTA, and the receiving MTA only sending the confirmation after asking the operating system to make sure the email is on disk). However, something as simple as a mail server having a disk crash at the correct moment is more than enough for a message to disappear on the ether, and that is only one of the possible failure scenarios. It is irresponsible to depend on email being reliable for anything important.

Richard Kulawiec says:

Re: The Real WTF

Absolutely. Peak reliability for email probably happened around 1995; since then, it’s been plagued with problems, including (a) a sharp decline in mail system administrator expertise (b) spam and other forms of abuse (c) some very stupid putatively anti-spam technologies (e.g., SPF) (d) some very abusive putatively anti-spam technologies (e.g., SAV) (e) the emergence of large freemail providers who’ve set new standards for systemic incompetence (e.g., Yahoo, Hotmail) (f) ill-advised attempts to use mail for things it was never designed or intended for and (g) poorly-designed MTAs which should never see the light of day.

So the question here should be “Why wasn’t the idiot who sent this important notification via email fired on the spot?”

Deirdre (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Real WTF

You don’t practice law do you? Electronic filing and notification by email from the Court is the only way that the Federal Court system wants to communicate now. Between parties service is still by regular mail.

Many states are heading (if not already there) the same way.

And most of the time it’s not bad. But when it goes bad it goes very very bad.

Richard Kulawiec says:

Re: Re: Re: The Real WTF

No, I don’t practice law — but I’ve running mail servers for 30 years. And using the Internet’s email infrastructure for important traffic like that is insanely stupid.

That is not to say that services can’t be constructed which facilitate reliable, confirmable document delivery over the ‘net: they can. It’s just that email isn’t one of them; it’s built on a protocol that’s best-effort, no more. And it keeps getting more unreliable/unstable every year.

teilo (profile) says:

The Real WTF

No, this is not bizarre at all. Lawyers are notorious for doing this sort of thing: if you can claim you sent notice, but the opposition does not respond, you can get a summary judgment.

Because courts do not require such notices to be sent certified mail, abuse of the system is common: pre-date the mail – even the date on the postage meter – and send it late. Obviously if you can prove they did this, you risk angering the judge. Therefore if you send it via email, you reduce the chance that the notice will be received or read, while still claiming that you sent the notice in a timely manner. If email gives you this edge over the postal service, you would naturally want to use email.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the real solution here is that you don’t rely on 1 form of communication for time sensitive critical issues, and you implement a method for confirming delivery.

Email has advantages over snail mail, but the reverse is also true. My girlfriend lost a job offer because they fat-fingered her email address. USPS is much more tolerant of typos in the address, and if the guy down the street gets your mail by mistake, you still have a chance he’ll get it to you.

SUNWARD (profile) says:


I got so fed up with obvious spam emails I automatically send some emails to the delete folder if the email contains certain keywords.

And then after I started getting read requests from spam emails, I set outlook to never send a read request.

Email is not the proper way to send legal matters. They need to be followed up with a letter or a phone call to confirm.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

There are excuses, and then there are excuses

When I was in the 11th or 12th grade I didn’t finish a paper in time for one of my classes. Somehow I convinced my teacher that I had turned it in, but that she had lost it. Based upon my previous work (A’s and B’s), and the fact that I had no history of such “prevarications” (ok, it was a bald-faced lie), she gave me a ‘B’ for the paper…

My point? That no proof is just that, no proof – you can’t prove a negative.

out_of_the_blue says:

Mike says: "I have to admit..."

Really? Why? Some coercion being applied? Do you regard this as a shameful secret? Is telling the simple truth about a presumably innocuous topic some aberration, some exception, for you?

And on what evidence do you characterize lack of email delivery as an “excuse”? It may well be mere EXPLANATION.

Your lousy grammar and fuzzy thinking really detract from site value. *Editing* is the most important part of writing.

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