Pulse One Communications Inc. lost a critical court battle yesterday when a jury ordered it to pay more than $5 million in damages after finding it breached its contract with Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems Inc.
The decision, handed down in Baltimore Circuit Court, represented a major setback for the Owings Mills-based cellular phone dealer. A one-time, high-flying business that rose spectacularly in the late 1980s with more than 230 employees, the company filed for bankruptcy protection last year.
Pulse One charged in April last year that Bell Atlantic breached the two companies' operating agreements through which Pulse One acted as a Bell Atlantic agent, selling the company's mobile phone equipment and services.
Pulse One also alleged that Bell Atlantic tried to drive it out of business by suddenly stopping payments and interfering in Pulse One's attempts to sign with other mobile phone companies.
Pulse One had originally sought $1.6 billion in damages from Bell Atlantic.
Bell Atlantic, a subsidiary of Bell Atlantic Corp., which also owns C&P Telephone Co., countersued, also charging breach of contract.
After a nearly two-month trial, a 12-member jury ruled that Pulse One -- not Bell Atlantic -- had broken the agreements. It also awarded Bell Atlantic $5,078,925 in damages stemming from guarantees Pulse One had made to honor unpaid deposits from customers and to return unearned commissions.
"We are pleased that the jury found in our favor," a spokesman for Bell Atlantic, Brian R. Wood, said. "Pulse One's accusations were without legal merit. We had no doubt that once a jury heard the facts they would be compelled to find in favor of Bell Atlantic."
Neither Gilbert Feldman, Pulse One's chief executive officer, nor the company's attorney, Stephen L. Snyder, could be reached for comment yesterday.