Legislation seeks to stem Y2K lawsuits

Legislation seeks to stem Y2K lawsuits

With 34 lawsuits over year 2000 problems already in the courts, United States House and Senate Republicans hope to stem a costly legal stampede with legislation, including a bill filed last week.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) introduced the Y2K Act, which has been referred to his Senate Commerce Committee.

A similar House bill was filed January 6. Both measures limit court awards so that punitive damages would be no larger than three times the amount of actual economic losses. The bills also would create courtroom alternatives such as arbitration to avoid time-consuming court proceedings. "The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that we look to solving ... Y2K rather than clog our courts with years of costly litigation," McCain said.

There are already at least 34 year 2000 lawsuits pending in state and federal courts, including the latest, brought January 13 by a large New York law firm against AT&T and Lucent Technologies according to analysts and court records.

The Clinton administration is unsure legislation is necessary. "There is no consensus position on liability legislation among the industry groups working on the matter," said John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Year 2000 Conversion Council. However, David LeDuc, manager of legislative policy at the Software and Information Industry Association in Washington, said his group is working with an informal Y2K coalition of industries that believes otherwise. "There's a consensus and a need for a large bill ... to address the large number of cases coming," he said.

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