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U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Opens Door for Suit Against Lockheed

February 28, 2001|From Bloomberg News

Lockheed Martin Corp. might have to defend against a lawsuit that accuses it of undercutting satellite contracts between a Russian company and a small Los Angeles firm, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The justices unanimously revived a claim by Semtek International Inc., which at one point sought $100 million from defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

The court ruled that a dismissal of an earlier suit by Semtek in California on statute of limitations grounds didn't necessarily bar the company's new claim in Maryland, which has a less stringent deadline.

A Maryland appeals court had thrown out the lawsuit. The justices instructed the Maryland tribunal to take another look and decide whether, under California law, the dismissal in that state precludes similar litigation elsewhere.

Semtek is seeking compensation for the collapse of its planned joint venture with Russia's Merkuriy Ltd. The venture would have let Semtek use Russian satellites to sell voice, video and data-transmission services at what it hoped would be cut-rate prices.

Semtek signed a series of agreements from 1992 to 1994 in a bid to set up a joint venture with Merkuriy, which had been designated by Russia's space agency to market satellite technology for commercial use.

The lawsuit claims Martin Marietta Technologies Inc., now part of Lockheed Martin, used a middleman to persuade Merkuriy to end its talks with Semtek. Martin Marietta and Transworld Communications Inc. eventually struck their own accord with the Russian company to provide financing and marketing for the Luch I satellite.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin has denied any wrongdoing. Lockheed Martin shares rose 2 cents to close at $38 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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