GAO finds few Y2K-related lawsuits

One of the fears surrounding the Year 2000 problem was its potential to

result in litigation against companies. But the General Accounting Office

said it has identified less than 100 federal and state lawsuits that raised

Y2K-related issues.

In a Sept. 21 report, GAO noted that just 18 of those suits invoked

provisions of the liability-limiting bill passed last year by Congress.

When that measure was being considered, some legal experts estimated

a possible price of $1 trillion in legal costs and damages stemming from

millennium bug-related suits. Concerns about that kind of out-of-control

litigation prompted Congress to adopt the controversial Y2K Act, which set

a mandatory 90-day cooling-off period before any legal action could commence

and restricted the use of class action lawsuits, among other provisions.

The GAO report said most of the cases filed involved end users who had

taken action against a hardware or software vendor to bear the cost of replacing

or upgrading existing systems.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who asked GAO to study the issue, said the

report "confirms that in the courts, the Y2K bill was mostly used by big

companies to delay or sidetrack relief to consumers."

But Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association

of America, a trade group in Arlington, Va., said the intent of the legislation

was to prevent an onslaught of groundless litigation.

"That's what the legislation was all about," Miller said. "It wasn't

prohibiting anyone from going to court."

Distributed by IDG News Service.

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