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Computing

Microsoft hit with Windows-related class-action lawsuit

June 26, 1998
Web posted at: 2:15 PM EDT

by David Pendery and James Niccolai

From...

(IDG) -- Two men in Louisiana have filed a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft on behalf of 150 million users, claiming that the software giant fraudulently represented Windows 3.1, 95, and NT during and after their releases.

"Microsoft has intentionally engaged in a systematic plan to mislead and deceive purchasers that Windows is superior to software on the market," reads the lawsuit, filed in Louisiana's 19th Judicial District by Louisiana residents Ramel Kelley and Patrick Antoine.

The suit alleges that Microsoft failed to test the Windows products sufficiently and that consequently many "vices and defects" were delivered to customers, subsequently causing "compensable damages" to as many as 150 million users of Microsoft software. The lawsuit demands compensatory, exemplary, and punitive damages to be determined by the court.

Among the defects in Microsoft products and complaints listed in the lawsuit are:

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  • Failure by Microsoft to provide technical information to users.
  • Failure by Microsoft to warn purchasers that the use of Windows may cause hard drive and other failures, causing data loss.
  • Failure by Microsoft to warn purchasers that Windows settings may be unconfigured.
  • Failure by Microsoft to warn purchasers that the ability to use the Windows data link library may be missing.
  • Failure by Microsoft to warn purchasers that the use of Windows may cause disk fragmentation.

Neither Kelley, Antoine, nor their attorney was available for comment.

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray, who had not yet seen the suit, said the software maker runs thorough tests of all its software products before they are allowed out the door.

"All our products undergo hundreds of hours of testing before they are ever released to consumers," Murray said.

However, he said, "The nature of software is [that] ... for any software maker there are inevitably additional improvements that you make after the product has been released."

Microsoft faced a similar potential class-action suit in Seattle in March 1997, in which an individual sought compensation on behalf of 35 million Windows 95 users, Murray said. The plaintiff claimed that features and capabilities in Windows 95 did not live up to Microsoft's advertisements for the product, Murray said.

In that suit, the Kings County Superior Court judge denied the request for class-action status, ruling that Microsoft had taken sufficient care to ensure its product worked as advertised, and threw the suit out of court, Murray said.

Murray noted that the Louisiana court also has the latitude to find that there are insufficient grounds for class-action status.

David Pendery is a reporter for InfoWorld. James Niccolai is a San Francisco correspondent for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.
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