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You might want to see what the New Jersey gov't has done...

-- Deb M. (vmcclell@columbus.rr.com), November 25, 1999


Thanks for the heads up, Deb.

New Jersey Senate Backs Bill Shielding Governments from Y2K Suits

[For research/educational purposes]

By Michael Booth New Jersey Law Journal November 4, 1999

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The state Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation last Monday that would amend the Tort Claims Act to grant further immunity to state, county and municipal governments from lawsuits arising from any problems caused by the Year 2000 computer bug.

The Assembly gave its initial approval to the bill, A-2511, in a 71-0 vote in May. Monday's 26-7 Senate vote approved an amended version of the bill and returned it to the Assembly for concurrence. The Assembly must act before Jan. 10, the end of the current legislative session.

Aides to Gov. Christine Todd Whitman say she favors the idea of providing municipal governments with greater protections from lawsuits, but the governor has not taken a position on the bill.

A-2511, sponsored by Assemblymen Michael Arnone, R- Monmouth, and Raul Garcia, D-Hudson, has been amended numerous times since it was introduced in October 1998, but shortly before the Senate vote, its original language was restored.

The bill now provides immunity to public entities for "damages resulting from the failure of computer hardware or software to properly recognize, calculate, display, sort or otherwise process dates and times." As amended during committee hearings, the bill would have granted immunity for virtually any computer problem, even one not associated with the Y2K bug.

Additionally, the Senate changed the bill to continue the immunity forever. The Assembly version would have had that immunity expire in 2003.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities has lobbied vigorously in favor of the bill since before its introduction, and Executive Director William Dressel peppered the senators with letters in the days leading up to the vote.

Without the legislation, Dressel said in a letter dated last Monday, "thousands of tort claims will be asserted against the State, counties, municipalities, authorities and agencies for everything ranging from the potential failure of traffic signals, alarm systems, water and sewer systems, communications systems, elevators, financial data records, etc., etc."

While public entities are trying to identify systems that may have problems, Dressel concedes that it is likely some systems with potential problems will go unidentified and will not be corrected before Dec. 31. The Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey attempted unsuccessfully to kill the bill. ATLA-NJ President Jorden Pedersen, a partner at Hoboken's Baker, Garber, Duffy & Pedersen, said the legislation amounted to "overkill" since public entities already enjoy almost unfettered immunity from lawsuits under the Tort Claims Act.

-- Steve (hartsman@ticon.net), November 25, 1999.

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