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Computing

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Legislation aims to keep Y2K bug out of the courtroom

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February 23, 1999
Web posted at: 3:21 p.m. EST (2021 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bipartisan congressional group introduced legislation Tuesday in an effort to curb an anticipated $1 trillion in legal costs associated with the Y2K computer bug. The measure would cap punitive damages, limit attorneys' fees, and promote federal loans to small businesses to fix the problem before the end of the year.

Many congressional and business leaders believe the money and energy being exhausted now preparing lawsuits over the computer glitch should be focused instead on fixing it.

"This bill that we are unveiling will replace the adversarial blame game with the kind of private sector cooperation that will get this problem solved in the best tradition of American ingenuity," Rep. David Dreier, R-California, a co-sponsor of the bill, told a news conference.

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    More than 50 lawsuits have already been filed, mostly by small companies whose software programs will fail January 1, 2000, because they were not designed to compute beyond 1999, according to the bill's sponsors.

    The legislation, which is supported by business groups, is designed to provide incentives for companies to fix their computer problems before litigation becomes an option.

    It requires owners of affected computers to give notice before suing, cushions businesses that make "good-faith" efforts to fix the problem, and sets up a loan program for small businesses so they can afford to get their computers fixed before they fail.

    Lawyers' fees would be substantially limited in Y2K actions and punitive damages would be capped at $250,000, although there is no limit on actual or personal injury damages.

    "This will encourage businesses to come in and fix these problems, and right now there's some hesitancy to do that," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Virginia, another co-sponsor. "There's a pre-filing notification in these particular cases so that businesses will be put on notice that the system's not working and they're given 30 days to reply if they can cure it and then given 60 days to cure it.

    "You want these problems solved, this is the way to do it, not just filing a protracted lawsuit and going straight to court."



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    RELATED STORIES:
    White House shifts Y2K focus to states
    February 23, 1999
    Legislation seeks to stem expensive Y2K lawsuits -
    January 28, 1999

    RELATED SITES:
    United States House of Representatives - 106th Congress
       •Dreier & Bipartisan group introduces bill to encourage private sector solutions for Y2K glitch
       •Rep. Tom Davis
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