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1998-04-25 09:00:53


Giant Firms Support California's No-Y2K-Lawsuits Bill



Large firms such as Intel and Hewlett Packard support the California bill that would prevent lawsuits over companies' failure to deal with the Year 2000 Problem. Companies say that predatory lawyers will make a bundle off of this.

These firms are optimistic about y2k. They expect the court system to survive. Yet this makes them pessimistic. They expect 750,000 American lawyers to survive. When it comes to optimism or pessimism, you have to choose between outcomes.

I am reminded of Jack Benny's old radio routine. A voice (probably Sheldon Leonard's) says, "OK, buddy. Your money or your life." Silence. "I said, your money or your life." Benny replies: "I'm thinking! I'm thinking!"

A generation of programmers and chip designers are saying: "OK, people. The collapse of the world economy or 750,000 fully employed American lawyers." Silence. "We said. . . ."

"Yes, yes. We heard you. We're thinking."

This is from WIRED NEWS (April 21).

* * * * * * *

A group of high-tech heavyweights has come out in support of a California state Assembly bill that would exempt them from paying punitive damages in lawsuits connected to Year 2000 glitches, as long as they made a good faith effort to fix the problems ahead of time.

"Our concern is that the litigation surrounding the Year 2000 issue is the latest hot business prospect," Richard Hall, Intel's manager of public and government affairs, said. "Lawyers view it as a wide open field for predatory class-action litigation. Our view is that our money should be spent on programmers to fix the problem rather than on attorneys."

The bill, up for a judiciary committee vote today, has the backing of the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Bankers Association, and the American Electronics Association, a group made up of more than 3,000 companies including Intel, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard. . . .

Assemblyman Brooks Firestone, a Republican, said his bill would not prevent companies from collecting actual damages from business lost because of a Y2K error. But he said he was already seeing lawsuits that "are driven by the lawyer's desire to get huge contingency fees rather than a desire to solve the problems."


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