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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is this lawsuit about?

Answer:

The title of this case is Cascade Corp. v. Sprint Communications Co., No. BCD-RE-17-01. On this website and in the notice, the people who sued are called the Plaintiffs, and the company they sued, Sprint Communications Company L.P., is called Sprint. The court in charge of this case is the York County Superior Court, State of Maine.

Beginning in the 1980s, Sprint or its predecessors buried fiber-optic cable and installed related telecommunications equipment within railroad rights of way across the United States. Sprint did so with the consent of the railroads. The Plaintiffs claim that Sprint was also required to get consent from adjoining landowners before installing Telecommunications Facilities (such as fiber-optic, copper, or coaxial cables for the transmission of voice or data) in the railroad rights of way.

Railroads have differing levels of property rights in connection with the rights of way. The issue in this litigation is whether the railroads have enough rights to permit Sprint to put Telecommunications Facilities in the rights of way without getting permission from owners of land next to or under the rights of way.

Sprint claims the railroads had the right to allow it to install Telecommunications Facilities without the need for further permission from landowners. Sprint denies it did anything wrong.

There has been no trial. Instead, the Plaintiffs and Sprint agreed to settle this case as a class action to avoid the costs and risks of trial.

In a class action, one or more people, called class representatives, sue on behalf of people who have similar claims. A judge can determine that people who have similar claims are members of a class, except for those who exclude themselves from the class.

The Settlement provides the opportunity for payment to Class Members who file valid claims. In exchange, under the Settlement, Class Members give Sprint an Easement in the railroad right of way. An Easement permits a person to use property for a stated purpose. The Easement given through the Settlement will include the right to install and use Telecommunications Facilities and is described more fully in FAQ 8.

The Settlement Agreement, available on the Settlement Documents page of this website, describes the details about the Settlement.

2. How do I know if I am part of the Settlement?

Answer:

You are a member of the Class if you are a current or former owner or co-owner of Covered Property in the following Maine counties: Cumberland or York.

“Covered Property” is the term used in this Settlement to refer to land that is next to or under a railroad right of way where Telecommunications Facilities have been installed by Sprint.

If you received a notice in the mail without requesting it, land records show you may be affected by this case. You can go to the Settlement Corridors page of this website to see the description of the rights of way that are included in the Settlement. If you are still not sure if you are in the Class, you can call 1-866-430-8983 to see if your property is included in the Settlement.

You are not a Class Member if you are:
• A national, state, or local governmental entity,
• A railroad or a railroad-affiliated entity, or
• A Native American nation or tribe.

If you exclude yourself from the Settlement, you are also not included in the Class (see FAQ 13.)

3. What are the benefits of the settlement?

Answer:

The Settlement will provide cash payments to those who qualify. This information is provided to you to help you understand the potential value of the Settlement.

The amount of your payment will depend on a number of factors, including:
• How many feet of property you own next to the railroad right of way,
• How long you owned the property,
• How many people co-own the property with you.

The documents that must be submitted to qualify for benefits are described in the Claim Forms that will be distributed to Class Members if the Court approves the Settlement. If you qualify and you owned the property for the entire Compensation Period, your payment would be $1.38 per foot.

You do not need to calculate your payment amount. Your payment will be determined for you at a later date.

4. What if I did not own my property for the entire time?

Answer:

In some instances, a property has current and former owners. Your payment would be based on the proportionate period of your ownership during the Compensation Period.

The start of the Compensation Period is the date the Telecommunications Cable Systems were installed.  That date varies depending on the location of the Segment. You can find the start of the Compensation Period for the right of way next to your property by consulting the table posted on the Settlement Corridors page of this website.

The Compensation Period ends 60 days after the “Effective Date.” The Effective Date is the later of: (1) the date on which the Settlement becomes final; (2) the date on which an order awarding attorneys’ fees becomes final; and (3) the date on which all periods during which any parties to the Settlement Agreement may exercise a right of withdrawal has expired. See the Settlement Agreement on the Settlement Documents page of this website for more details.

5. What should I do if I move or sell my property?

Answer:

If you move after receiving this notice and before the Settlement is finalized, in order to receive additional important notices, you must call the Claims Administrator at 1-866-430-8983 and give your new address. If you sell your property after receiving this notice and before the Settlement is finalized, you should inform the new owner of your decision whether to remain in the Class or to opt out of it because the new owner will be bound by your decision. You should also call the Claims Administrator and give the name of the new owner.

6. What if I inherited my property?

Answer:

If you inherited your property, along with any property-based claims that were owned by your deceased relative, you will be able to count any period of ownership by your deceased relative. For example, if you owned the property for 12 months and your relative owned the property for 24 months during the Compensation Period, your payment will be based on 36 months.

Please note that you will need to provide the Claims Administrator with a personal representative’s deed or beneficiary’s deed showing you acquired your property by inheritance. You will also need to provide a deed or certificate of title that reflects your relative’s acquisition of the property.

7. What if there are multiple owners of my property?

Answer:

If you file a valid claim, the Claims Administrator will write a single check payable to all co-owners of the property. The check will be mailed in care of the person to whom this notice was mailed.

If your ownership of the Covered Property has changed during the Compensation Period, then each owner or group of co-owners (including estates) must submit a separate Claim Form for each period of ownership. Ownership may change, for example, through a transfer between family members, by or to a related corporation, or to a trust, or through the addition or deletion of co-owners.

8. What is the Easement?

Answer:

The lawsuit is about whether Sprint received from the railroads sufficient rights to use the railroad right of way next to your property for Telecommunications Facilities. That issue has not been resolved. The Easement will grant any rights Sprint doesn't already have to use the right of way for Telecommunications Facilities. The right of way usually extends a significant distance on either side of the railroad tracks. The Easement will:
• Cover a portion of the right of way adjoining your property, encompassing where the existing Telecommunications Facilities are buried or located;
• Allow Sprint, if it doesn't already have the right to do so, to maintain, operate, repair, and relocate existing Telecommunications Facilities and to install additional Telecommunications Facilities within the Easement area;
• Allow Sprint access to the right of way by using existing private roads when access from public or railroad roads or the adjoining right of way is not practical;
Not allow Sprint to add or substantially expand buildings on the right of way; and
Not allow Sprint to add microwave or cell towers.

If you are a current landowner, you will be required to submit a signed Easement as a condition of payment.

You can read and download the Easement Deed at the Other Claim Documents page of this website, or call 1-866-430-8983 to request a copy. You should not sign the Easement Deed now. Instead, the Easement Deed forms will be distributed to Class Members after the Court has approved the Settlement and a valid claim is made.

Note: If you are a current landowner and do not exclude yourself from the Settlement, you will automatically grant an Easement in the railroad right of way next to your land. The Court will authorize the Claims Administrator to sign an Easement Deed on your behalf if you do not sign the Easement Deed.

The easement is described more fully in Section IV of the Settlement Agreement.

9. How can I get a payment?

Answer:

You don’t have to do anything now. If the Settlement receives final approval, Class Members who received this notice in the mail will receive a Claim Form automatically. You can view the different Claim Forms at the website. Please note that you will not be able to submit a claim until after the Court grants final approval to the Settlement.

When you receive your Claim Form, you will need to complete it and supply the Claims Administrator with proof of your ownership of each parcel of property. There may be additional required documents based on the benefits for which you are applying. Please carefully read the Claim Form. If you still have questions about documentation requirements, you can call 1-866-430-8983.

The Court will hold a hearing on July 21, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. to decide whether to give final approval to the Settlement. If the Court approves the Settlement, anyone in the Claims Administrator’s database will be sent a Claim Form to complete and return to the Claims Administrator. After your claim is received, the Claims Administrator will determine if you qualify for payment. If you do, the Claims Administrator will send a Release of Claims to you as well as an Easement Deed to current landowners.

An appeal after the Court approves the Settlement may cause additional time delays. Claim Forms will not be distributed and payments will not be made while an appeal is pending. The amount of time an appeal takes is always uncertain, but can be more than a year. Please check the website periodically for updates on this case.

10. What if I disagree with the amount of my payment?

Answer:

There is a process in the Settlement to resolve disagreements over whether you are eligible or the amount of your payment. If you file a claim, you will get further details in the letter you receive about your eligibility. You have the right to ask the Claims Administrator to reconsider the decision on your claim. Please review the letter carefully when you receive it because there are specific time limitations regarding the reconsideration process. More details are available in the Settlement Agreement, which is available at the Settlement Documents page of this website.

11. Do I have a lawyer in the case?

Answer:

The Court has appointed the lawyers and firms listed below as “Class Counsel,” meaning that they were appointed to represent you and all Class Members:

You will not be charged for these lawyers. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

Nels Ackerson
ACKERSON KAUFFMAN FEX, PC
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20006 

Henry J. Price
PRICE, WAICUKAUSKI & RILEY, LLC
301 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Irwin B. Levin
COHEN & MALAD, LLP
One Indiana Square, Suite 1400
Indianapolis, IN 46204 

Dan Millea
ZELLE LLP
500 Washington Avenue South, Suite 4000
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Scott D. Gilchrist
COHEN & MALAD, LLP
One Indiana Square, Suite 1400
Indianapolis, IN 46204 

Roger C. Johnson
KOONZ, MCKENNEY, JOHNSON, DEPAOLIS & LIGHTFOOT, LLP
2001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20006

Thomas R. Mckeon
RICHARDSON, WHITMAN, LARGE & BADGER
465 Congress Street
PO Box 9545
Portland, ME 04112

12. How will the lawyers be paid? 

Answer:

The Court will decide how much Class Counsel and any other lawyers will be paid. Class Counsel will ask the Court for attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses of $103,000. Other lawyers may make fee applications. Class Counsel will also request that $1,300 be paid to the Class Representative who helped the lawyers on behalf of the whole Class.  Sprint will separately pay these fees and expenses and the payment will not reduce the benefits available for the Class.  

13. How do I exclude myself from the Settlement?

Answer:

Excluding yourself from the Settlement is telling the Court that you don’t want to be part of the Settlement. If you don’t want a payment from the Settlement, and you want to keep the right to sue or continue to sue Sprint or the railroads on your own about the issues in this case, then you must take steps to get out. This is called excluding yourself—or is sometimes referred to as opting out of the Class. This is the only way to avoid giving an Easement to Sprint (see FAQ 8.)

To exclude yourself from the Settlement, you must send a letter that includes the following:
• Your name and address,
• The names and current addresses of any co-owners of land you own or owned next to or under a railroad right of way,
• A statement saying that you want to be excluded from the Class,
• The legal description contained in the deed to your land or other description and address of the land that is next to or under a railroad right of way, including your estimate, if possible, of the length (in feet) of the right of way next to your land, and
• Your signature.

You must mail your exclusion request, postmarked no later than May 15, 2017, to:

ME Fiber-Optic Cable Litigation Exclusions - 3024
P.O. Box 2737
Faribault, MN 55021

Unless you exclude yourself, you give up the right to sue Sprint or the railroads for the claims that the Settlement resolves. If you have a pending lawsuit, speak to your lawyer in that lawsuit immediately. You must exclude yourself from this Class to continue your own lawsuit.

You will not get any money if you exclude yourself from the Settlement. If you exclude yourself from the Settlement, do not send in a Claim Form asking for benefits.

If you exclude yourself from the Settlement, you have no basis to object to the Settlement because it no longer affects you.

14. How do I object to the Settlement?

Answer:

Objecting is simply telling the Court that you don’t like something about the Settlement. You can object to the Settlement only if you do not exclude yourself from the Settlement. Excluding yourself from the Settlement is telling the Court that you don’t want to be part of the Settlement. If you exclude yourself from the Settlement, you have no basis to object to the Settlement because it no longer affects you.

If you are a Class Member, you can object to the Settlement or to requests for fees and expenses by Class Counsel or any other lawyers. To object, you must send a letter that includes the following:
• Your name and address,
• The title of the case, Cascade Corp. v. Sprint Communications Co., No. BCD-RE-17-01
• A statement saying that you object to the Settlement in Cascade Corp. v. Sprint Communications Co.
• The reasons you object, and
• Your signature.

Your objection, along with any supporting material you wish to submit, must be mailed and postmarked no later than May 15, 2017, to the following four addresses:

Claims Administrator
ME Fiber-Optic Cable Litigation - 3024
P.O. Box 2737
Faribault, MN 55021

Court
Cumberland County Superior Court
Cumberland County Courthouse
205 Newbury Street
Portland, Maine 04101

Class Counsel
Fiber–Optic Cable Litigation Class Counsel
P.O. Box 441711
Indianapolis, IN 46244

Defense Counsel
J. Emmett Logan
Stinson Leonard Street LLP
1201 Walnut #2900
Kansas City, MO 64106-2150

15. When will the Settlement be approved?

Answer:

The Court will hold a Fairness Hearing at 9:00 a.m. on July 21, 2017, at the Cumberland County Courthouse, located at 205 Newbury Street, Portland, Maine 04101. The hearing may be moved to a different date or time without additional notice, so it is a good idea to check this website.

At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Court will also consider how much to pay Class Counsel and the Class Representative. If there are objections, the Court will consider them at this time. After the hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve the Settlement. We do not know how long these decisions will take.

You do not have to come to the hearing.  Class Counsel will answer questions Judge Murphy may have. But, you may come at your own expense. If you send an objection, you don’t have to come to Court to talk about it. As long as you mailed your written objection on time, to the proper address, the Court will consider it. You may also pay your own lawyer to attend, but it’s not necessary.

If you submitted a written objection, you may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Fairness Hearing. To do so, you must send a letter saying that you intend to appear and wish to be heard. Your Notice of Intention to Appear must include the following:
• Your name and address,
• The title of the case,
• A statement that this is your “Notice of Intention to Appear,” and
• Your signature.

You must mail your Notice of Intention to Appear, postmarked no later than May 15, 2017, to the four addresses listed in FAQ 14.

16. What happens if I do nothing at all?

Answer:

If you received this notice in the mail, a Claim Form will automatically be mailed to you after the Court grants final approval to the Settlement. If you do not file a claim, you will not get any money from the Settlement.

17. How do I get more information?

Answer:

More information is available in the settlement agreement, and on the other pages of this website.  If you still have questions, you can call 1-866-430-8983 toll-free or write to:

ME Fiber-Optic Cable Litigation - 3024
P.O. Box 2737
Faribault, MN 55021

Disclaimer

 

Please do not contact Sprint or the Court about this Settlement. Any and all callers will be directed to this website. If you have questions, please refer to the information posted here.  If you are unable to find an answer to your question using the information posted here, you can call the claims administrator at 1-866-430-8983.

This site is not operated by Sprint. This class action settlement is supervised by the Court and is administered by a claims administration firm that handles all aspects of claims processing.

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