U.S. Senate Seeks Compromise On Y2K Lawsuitsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
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U.S. Senate Seeks Compromise On Y2K Lawsuits
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Under pressure from Democrats and consumer advocates, Senate Republicans said Wednesday they would rework bills that would limit lawsuits against high-tech companies stemming from the year 2000 computer bug.
Democrats welcomed the move, saying it would give lawmakers the time they needed to craft a compromise to cut down on millennium bug lawsuits while protecting the rights of consumers to sue if their computers crash next Jan. 1.
Backed by computer and software companies, legislation introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain would delay year 2000 computer bug lawsuits during a 90-day ``cooling-off'' period, cap punitive damages and limit the liability of company executives.
The U.S. Justice Department and other critics complained that the bills went too far, giving too much protection to high-tech businesses at the expense of consumers.
The millennium problem arises because many older computers record dates using only the last two digits of the year. If left uncorrected, such systems could treat the year 2000 as the year 1900, generating errors or system crashes next Jan. 1.
Both Republicans and Democrats are under pressure to act fast because of the Jan. 1, 2000, deadline.
Behind the initiatives are powerful industry groups, including the Information Technology Association of America, which represents IBM, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news), AT&T Corp. (NYSE:T - news) and more than 11,000 other high-tech companies.
Supporters say the legislation is needed to cut down on the number of frivolous Y2K lawsuits, which could cost more than $1 trillion worldwide, according to some experts.
But the Justice Department said the bills were ripe for abuse, and might undermine Y2K readiness by taking pressure off the very companies charged with fixing the problem. Consumer advocacy groups said small businesses and computer users should have every right to sue.
Faced with growing Democratic opposition and a presidential veto, aides said McCain and Hatch would spend the coming weeks trying to craft a compromise.
``We're working on amendments and revisions that will address the concerns that have been raised by the Democrats,'' said a spokeswoman for McCain, an Arizona Republican.
An aide for Hatch said the Utah Republican would postpone Thursday's vote in the Judiciary Committee to give lawmakers a week or more to try to work out an agreement.
``A pause in this process right now is a healthy thing,'' said David Carle, spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont. ``If the bill were rushed to the floor, it would lead to party-line votes and dicey chances at best for any legislation like this.''
In current form, the bills would cap punitive damages to $250,000 for many businesses and limit the personal liability of corporate officers and directors to $100,000 in many cases. They would also delay some lawsuits during a 90-day waiting period, and make it harder for some plaintiffs to recover damages.
-- Deborah (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999
closelink (I hope)
-- ww (x@Y.z), March 11, 1999.
-- Deborah (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
It is to laugh. Companies want to be protected from legal action resulting from their delivery of faulty products. Limits of $250K for punitive? $100K for members of the board? Gimme a break!
We've got congresscritters jumping all over legislative punishment for tobacco companies. We've got city politicos looking to help their coffers by sueing gun manufacturers for selling completely legal firearms. We've even got lawsuits a-brewing against film makers whose work is deemed to incite violent acts. And we should limit damages against companies which have delivered products which they know will not function properly on 01/01/2000?
I think not.
"Depend upon it, sirrah: when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
-- Dr. Johnson
-- Mac (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
Nice quote, it made me laugh; I needed that.
When consumer protection legislation in my state was introduced, the 'Big Guys' came out of the woodwork claiming that all of US dead beat consumers would just stop paying our bills & blame it on y2k.
A few days later it came out that one of these same monopolies has been having y2k related problems & left a couple hundred thousand customers without bills for months & at a time etc. I know people this affected. These companies are being big fat whining babies.
Speaking as a person whose credit is in the top 5% in the nation I am repulsed & offended by their attitude.
-- Deborah (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.